It sounds simple enough.
All carriers who fly cargo and mail into the European Union from non-EU countries must have their security operations validated. This European Commission regulation stems from the Yemen cargo bomb plot in October 2010.
But this change – more than three years in the making – could take some of the air cargo industry by surprise. European entities question whether the resources exist for companies to comply with the regulation and whether everyone takes it seriously enough.
This European regulation, known as ACC3, reaches outside the continent, potentially affecting thousands of stations around the world.
All affected carriers – anyone who flies cargo into the EU – must be validated by July 1.
“We’re really talking a significant amount of validations here that need to take place,” says Werner Cooreman, regional head of security for DHL Express Europe and chairman of the European Express Association Security Committee. “If you look at the global playing field, there’s quite a number of airlines involved and for each airline, there’s quite a number of last points of departure into Europe involved, so quite a lot of facilities.”
But now, less than five months from the deadline, it seems unclear if the airfreight industry will be ready.
More security for air cargo
Few people argue against security regulations, and European companies interviewed by Air Cargo World didn’t deviate.
“In general, it’s one more step for more security in the air cargo industry,” Harald Zielinski, chief security officer at Lufthansa Cargo, says.
In order to comply with the regulation, carriers must ensure that cargo and mail destined for the EU is screened or comes from a secure supply chain. After a carrier is independently validated, it gains the required status as an “Air Cargo or Mail Carrier operating into the Union from a Third Country Airport” (ACC3).
Independent validators must be trained in order to evaluate carriers.
Zielinski says countries guided by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and the European Commission already have well-written air cargo security rules.
“But there are some countries where it is not clear to everybody what it really going on there,” he says. “For me, it’s definitely very, very sensible to see the step by the authorities to make sure there is no cargo flown into a secured network which is originated by an unsecured network.”
EU regulators conducted a risk assessment and divided the world into three segments: green, red and white. Green countries do not require additional aviation security regulations. The U.S. falls under that category. Red countries require strong additional measures. The white countries encompass everyone else, the majority of the world.
The EU does not publish these lists publicly, giving them only to affected carriers.
DB Schenker’s Lothar Moehle, director security standardization for airfreight operations, says the ACC3 regulation will help the company better protect its employees.
“Certainly it is making the operational processes not necessarily easier, although overall it’s making the airfreight shipments more secure, there’s no doubt about it,” Moehle says.
Companies quickly point out to Air Cargo World that they already have optimal security and screening programs, even before ACC3.
The International Air Transport Association’s Mike Woodall, who is on a two-year secondment from the UK Department for Transport, says some regulators do not have faith in the secure supply chain.
“The European regulators have said, ‘We are prepared to trust and accept the secure supply chain,’” Woodall says. “All they’ve asked industry to do is to provide demonstrable proof to an independent validator that it is actually a secure supply chain. It’s not just taken on faithful blind trust. There is actually demonstrable evidence that says that the carriers are trusting a secure supply chain for a very good reason.”
Possible ‘blockage in the pipe’
A key piece of the regulation is the independent validators. Without them, carriers can’t meet the requirement to have their security operations validated.
A validator must be trained and certified in order to do validations for the many carriers who fly cargo into the EU. So it had to fall upon someone to train these people.
“It was quite clear that governments weren’t going to create independent validators en masse, which is one of the key prerequisites for carriers becoming ACC3 after 1 of July,” says Woodall, IATA’s project leader cargo security, independent validation and international regulatory engagement. “The regulators thought that the commercial powers or entities would step into this gap and see business opportunities in becoming training providers.”
But neither governments nor companies created training programs, he says. So it fell upon IATA. The organization’s training school, the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators, gained accreditation in April 2013 and ran the first class in May.
With just 14 months until ACC3 took effect, IATA’s first validators came off the production line. The organization is the only EU-approved entity to train validators.
There were approximately 5,000 validations to carry out before July 1.
“The whole industry should be grateful for that, the fact that IATA took the initiative because otherwise, I don’t know what would have happened,” Cooreman says.
Not just anyone can become an independent validator or pass IATA’s course. In order for candidates to be accepted for validator training, they must complete a five-year background check to the satisfaction of the European states and demonstrate competence in aviation security, Woodall says.
IATA candidates must be pre-approved by a European government. They then undergo a five-day, 40-hour course that culminates in a six-hour exam. After candidates score a minimum of 80 percent on the test, the European country that preapproved their attendance in the course accredits them as independent validators.
Once they gain that status, they can go out and validate carriers’ security operations.
The IATA course has trained 101 people, but after accounting for five observers who didn’t take the exam, the 15 percent who failed and states officials who aren’t available for hiring, Woodall estimates that 75 validators are on the open market for the use of companies.
Cooreman says DHL initially felt concerned about a tight time window, but there are now a sufficient number of validators.
IATA has stopped running independent validator training courses because the supply of preapproved candidates from EU countries has dried up, Woodall says.
“Whether we’ll all able to meet the target of July 2014 remains to be seen and whether there are sufficient validators to meet the demand should it reach its peak level also remains to be seen,” he says. “But at some point, if the supply of validators isn’t sufficient, the fault will largely sit with the European regulators for not having preapproved sufficient candidates for us to train. We’ve got more training slots than we’ve got candidates, so IATA cannot be criticized for not generating enough validators if the states themselves haven’t preapproved and sent them to us.”
Woodall advises companies to contact validators, if they haven’t done so already. ACC3 allows for the pooling of validators, meaning multiple entities can contract a single validator and share his time in a single location at the same time. That uses the limited number of validators more efficiently.
“As we get closer to the deadline, more and more people will contact validators,” Woodall says. “It’s possible there will be a blockage in the pipe.”
A question looming for ACC3 is how many companies are prepared for and know about the regulation.
“In the shorter term, airlines that have not prepared to meet the ACC3 requirements may struggle to get their validations completed in time, and could face supply chain disruption,” says Jim McCaffrey, IAG Cargo’s vice president safety and compliance.
Cooreman says based on DHL Express’ encounters with non-European airlines and authorities, there is not always a “full understanding” of the regulation.
“That’s one of the biggest risks at the moment – that non-European carriers or non-European entities would struggle understanding the full impact and requirements of that regulation, and they might hence fail to comply with all the validation requirements by July 1,” Cooreman says.
In fact, the deadline is more like May 1 since the validator has 30 days to write a report after onsite verification, says Jean Dunaux, Air France-KLM-Martinair cargo industrial affairs and security specialist.
IATA has mounted a mass marketing campaign to inform the industry of ACC3, including offering free one-day information sessions around the world, though Cooreman says this probably still hasn’t reached every concerned airline.
“This happens all the time,” Zielinski of Lufthansa says. “At least you find just a few that realize a few days before, ‘Oh, there’s a new rule. How to handle that?’”
Enno Osinga, senior vice president cargo at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, says he isn’t worried about carriers missing the July 1 deadline.
“The airline industry has been facing and dealing with steadily-increasing security measures for many years now, and has so far proven itself very able to meet all new requirements, and ensure the necessary processes are in place by the relevant deadlines,” Osinga says. “We expect the same for ACC3, as the alternative is that non-compliant carriers will be barred from bringing cargo into EU airports from non-EU origin points.”
Moehle of Schenker doesn’t believe the deadline will be postponed. Woodall says as IATA continues it marketing campaigns and training sessions, more and more companies employ independent validators.
But Cooreman says awareness of the regulation remains relatively low.
“It might lead to certain delays in complying with the regulation because the word obviously still has to be spread,” he says. “A validation takes quite a bit of time and effort to prepare for, so if you combine those two elements, then I can imagine that a number of airlines – non-European carriers – may be facing a bit of an issue later on this year, as well as some of the airports that fly into Europe, where suddenly now they have to do things potentially differently than they were doing them yesterday.”
Right now, companies’ facilities are in the process of being validated for ACC3.
Cooreman says the effects of the regulation remain unknown.
“There will be an impact, but the scale of the impact is a bit hard to predict,” he says. “Basically, what a lot of airlines as well as other parties in the air cargo industry will have to do is first of all get more screening equipment. Secondly, improve the physical security of their stations in certain countries. So there will be definitely an initial cost increase to the industry as a whole.”
Zielinski applauds the EU for issuing a rule that everyone must follow, saying some countries’ security needs a helping hand.
Moehle says different countries have disparate levels of security.
“Some countries are up to scratch already in such that they are fulfilling the EU regulations already today and without validation ordered,” he says. “There are others who start on a clean slate and of course have to do more work.”
In the end, the ACC3 regulation will bolster air cargo security, McCaffrey of IAG Cargo says.
“In the long term, the security validations will help strengthen supply chain security as they help ensure that airlines and other entities responsible for supply chain security meet EU standards,” he says.
Cooreman points out that it would be better if industry had to comply with a single program instead of ones from multiple regimes, but ACC3 will result in improved protection and more screening.
“The consequence there is two-fold,” he says. “One, for Europe as a destination region, so all the cargo flying into Europe will be securely controlled at least, so the member states in Europe can be a bit more confident now that what they are getting in is secure to a very high degree. But also given the fact that a lot of cargo transits in Europe to the U.S., the U.S. also benefits here from this European piece of regulation.”
Ultimately, this regulation will help safeguard cargo and the passengers and employees around it, Moehle says.
“We are all traveling quite often on a plane, and I feel more secure when I’m sitting and I know the cargo in the belly has been X-rayed for potential threats,” he says. “Overall, it makes the supply chain more secure, and that is beneficial for the global population – no doubt about it.”
IATA’s ACC3 Readiness Three-Day Workshop Schedule
|Buenos Aires||March 26-28|
|Sao Paulo||April 23-25|