The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agency announced late last month that its Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) pilot program will be given yet another one-year extension. The program will be extended through July 26, 2017, giving various supply chain stakeholders another 12 months to prepare for the mandatory advanced filing of information about inbound cargo in the United States.
Industry officials say the extension is the logical consequence of fine-tuning a system that requires close cooperation between the U.S. government, the private sector and foreign parties overseas. “It’s a bit more complex than anyone realized going in,” Douglas Brittin, secretary general of The International Air Cargo Association told American Shipper. “A lot more needs to be tested before you can write all the details and guidelines.”
The ACAS pilot allows carriers and forwarders to voluntarily submit a subset of air cargo data to the CPB at the earliest point practicable prior to loading the cargo onto aircraft destined to or transiting through the United States. Data collected by the CPB is then used to target “high-risk air cargo.”
The CPB maintains that extending the program is allowing these cargo handling companies to increase their effectiveness. “Each extension of the pilot period and reopening of the application period has allowed for a significant increase in the diversity and number of pilot participants,” the agency noted. However, it added that, “the current pilot participants now represent a strong sample size of the air cargo community, and new pilot participants will not be accepted.”
ACAS came about in response to the infamous event in October 2010, when authorities discovered two packages from Yemen containing viable bombs in the cargo holds of two aircraft.
The CPB admits that the current setup is not ideal, and that air cargo remains vulnerable, but in its most recent statement on the matter, the agency notes that the extension “will provide continuity in the flow of advance air cargo security information and serve as a stop-gap measure to address the vulnerability of the air cargo supply chain identified by the 2010 Yemen cargo plot.
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