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Lufthansa eyes future of cargo security

By Martin Roebuck on April 2, 2014

Ingo Rahn, executive vice president global airfreight, DHL Global Forwarding, says, “It doesn’t make sense to do checking at transit hub for shipments that have been scanned before. We have to make sure our businesses run smoothly and the bottom line is positive. But everything we hear about security adds complexity and consumes resources.”

The threat of modal shift was genuine, Rahn adds. The shipping industry would scarcely notice 5,000 tonnes of new traffic, but airfreight would be hit hard by losing it.

He identified lack of a harmonized global security approach as the key issue.

“Even in the core countries of Europe, the rules are different and so is the interpretation of them. You have to configure your IT systems to cover the rules of every destination country. You’re up against a lot of complexity and the risk of delay,” he says.

But Hammerl responds, “We are not dreaming these things up to annoy the industry. If we don’t have a known consignor system reaching to third countries, no instruments to ascertain they’re effective, there has to be some checking of transit freight. We don’t care how it’s done.”

Peter Andres, head of corporate security for Lufthansa, sees cyber crime as the potential future threat.

“It might be interesting to criminals to try to confuse the logistics process and topple a whole economy rather than put a bomb on a plane,” he says.

The passenger industry was moving away from 100 percent checks toward trusted traveler schemes and other forms of threat differentiation, and the cargo sector similarly must adopt pinpointed, targeted measures, Andres says.

“Finding a needle in a haystack is not solved by increasing the size of the haystack,” he says.

Thilo Schäfer, vice president global handling management at Lufthansa Cargo, says the company made 2.4 million security declarations last year with an estimated 33.8 million touch points. Electronic cargo security declarations (e-CSDs) were an essential progression from e-air waybills.

Some 40 percent of shipments out of Munich, LC’s second German hub behind Frankfurt, were now accompanied by e-AWBs and this could be be followed in one to two years by digitization of security declarations, providing regulators with an audit trail of how, when and by whom cargo had been secured.

Schäfer says LC and its supply chain partners had established the proof of concept on a small scale, but he is concerned by the air cargo industry’s slow progress toward paperless transportation.

Transparency along the supply chain was an essential component of efficient and safe logistics, but shippers, forwarders, handlers, carriers, consignees and the authorities were constrained by silo thinking and thus reluctant to move away from physical documents.

Hence paper AWBs were still being used to provide security data, though all the relevant information was already available in digital form.

“The risk is that in two years, we’ll still be talking about e-AWBs,” Schäfer says.