SHANGHAI — Journalists usually attend events like IATA’s World Cargo Symposium in the hope that they will have the opportunity to interview some of the big players in the airfreight business. But on Wednesday morning, IATA staged an interview of its own, putting two of these important players on the stage, and having one interview the other, while delegates (and journalists) watched and listened.
Doing the interviewing was Enno Osinga, Senior Vice President Cargo, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and TIACA Board Member, and in his spotlight was Doug Brittin, TIACA’s Director General.
The interview took place at the beginning of a session on air cargo security, and who better to question on that subject than Brittin, who, after a successful career in the logistics and air freight industry, spent several years leading the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s air cargo efforts before taking his current position at TIACA.
The formal subject of the interview was “Is Terrorism a Failed Brand?” The idea behind this was that, in a marketing sense, Al Qaeda, and now ISIS, have become brands known to the world, and capable of attracting recruits through their ability to market themselves. Given that, insofar as aviation has been concerned, there have been no successful attacks recently, could we therefore conclude that terrorism’s brand had failed, or was failing?
The answer, to no one’s surprise, was that no, the brand was still popular, and terrorism was still a serious threat.
This was, of course, just the introduction to the meat of the interview, which focused on the question of how the effort to protect the air cargo supply chain in the face of continuing – and increasing – threat should proceed.
To start, Brittin pointed out some of the problems, among them the basic fact that any “perfect” protection system would bring the chain to a halt, thereby accomplishing the terrorists’ goals for them. On the bright side, regulatory agencies, such as the TSA, have come to appreciate this, and have for some time now been working with the players in the supply chain, rather than in opposition to them. On the less bright side, Brittin noted that while regulators had accepted that security had to work in the real world, many legislators had not, and still continued to push for the implementation of 100 percent screening, among other “solutions” that were either not implementable at all, or, if implemented, would make air freight unusable by shippers.
But despite these problems, Brittin was optimistic about the possibility of increasing security without destroying the value proposition of airfreight. It will take continued close cooperation between regulators and industry, continued efforts to educate legislators and increased sharing of information by all involved.
Photo: Doug Brittin