Cargo Stowaways II

Cargo Stowaways II

Copyright 2004, Traffic World, Inc.

Backers of tougher air cargo security screening seized on the industry''s second stowaway incident to press Congress for more stringent oversight of goods moving by air.

"What if they were three terrorists?" said Coalition of Airline Plots Associations Vice President Paul Onorato, a commercial airline pilot. "Can a cargo plane do exactly what those 767s did to the World Trade Center? Of course it can."

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass, said the incident justified his attempts to revive efforts to get Congress to require the air cargo industry to X-ray or physically inspect all shipments on passenger planes. Markey last year lost an effort at similar legislation last year.

Markey noted the incident came just five months after another stowaway shipped himself in a cargo container from New York to Dallas.

Markey''s rules would not change screening requirements for cargo on freighters. Airline industry officials fear such a change would all but drive combination carriers out of the cargo business by making shipping on passenger planes too costly and slow.

Markey''s provisions would not have changed inspection requirements for the pallet that encased three stowaways on a flight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Miami International Airport on Jan. 31. The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, with assistance from the Transportation Security Administration, is still investigating the incident.

Officials said employees at a Miami airport warehouse discovered the stowaways early Feb. 1. Warehouse employees called local authorities, who called Customs officials. By the time Customs officials arrived, the trio had broken out of a shrink-wrapped pallet, which apparently carried textiles. The men were taken into custody and deported.

It appeared the men flew aboard a Capital Cargo International Airlines 727-200 freighter chartered by DHL Aero Expresso, a DHL-owned airline based in Panama. Capital Cargo is based in Orlando and flies under ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) contracts.

The three men were reportedly discovered in a DHL warehouse. A DHL spokesman did not return phone calls for comment.

"We''re looking into the details and determining whether or not penalties will be issued and who, if anyone, they will be levied against," Miami-based Customs spokesman Zachary Mann said.

TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser said the security agency is assisting the investigation.