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Brussels, 29 November 2010

The EU action plan on air cargo security

Vice-President Siim Kallas, meeting with the high-level group on air cargo security, today set out a series of recommentations on the EU's response to the 30 October security alert, when viable explosive devices were found in cargo shipments originating from Yemen and transferring to US-bound flights at airports in Germany and the UK.

The recommendations from the high-level group were agreed by Member States' experts meeting in the Civil Aviation Security Regulatory Committee and by Commission security experts in the Directorates-General responsible for Mobility and Transport; Justice; Home Affairs, Taxation and Customs Union, and the Joint Situation Centre, working closely with the Belgian Presidency. Industry representatives were also consulted.

The recommendations

1. New harmonised EU cargo and mail security controls

Legislation: Working closely with national and industry experts from the Air Cargo Working Group, the Commission will bring forward new legislative proposals in relation to cargo originating from outside the EU. These proposals are likely to include actions to be taken by EU air carriers wishing to bring cargo from countries outside the EU. Many of these carriers already have security provisions in place for such operations.

The proposals will also draw on experience gained in the customs sector, using a risk-based approach and requiring more advance information about shipments. The first steps will be to define criteria for identifying cargo which represents a particular risk and to establish mechanisms to allow for the evaluation of security standards at non-EU airports.

Member States will be encouraged to accelerate the implementation of the EU's system of supply chain security (known as "consignor validation") and to introduce the new requirements as much as possible before the April 2013 deadline. Validation of relevant parties in countries outside the EU should be considered in order to underpin the necessary security controls that already exist there. This will mitigate the risk of consignments arriving from external countries and will have minimal impact on transfer cargo handling at EU airports.

Enhanced cargo and mail inspections: The Member States and the Commission should as a matter of urgency strengthen the compliance monitoring of the cargo and mail rules. The Commission has to date made 30 cargo inspections at Member State airports and the results of these inspections show that implementation of EU rules must be improved. The number of of EU inspections will be increased and Member States must take action to strengthen national monitoring programmes. The proper implementation of cargo rules is linked to effective staff training. Standardised training packages for staff involved in air security could ensure robust and harmonised standards. Workshops for some non-EU countries might be co-ordinated by bodies such as the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), with EU support.

Projects for improving detection technologies and future research: There are many different types of cargo, so screening it effectively can be challenging. There will be further investment in research to improve the performance of current detection technologies and to come up with new possibilities. This will be carried out under the EU research framework programme and other initiatives.

2. EU coordination

Better intelligence and threat information sharing is vital to ensure a prompt, effective and harmonised response to arising threats. It is imperative that information about new threats is shared as quickly as possible, so that they can be tackled immediately. Appropriate mechanisms should be put in place wherever these do not yet exist. A common EU threat assessment capability will also be developed so that EU security rules can be adapted to actual and evolving risks.

3. Global approach

A global approach is needed to improve security. ICAO's latest revision to Annex 17 which enhances cargo security rules should be swiftly implemented by its contracting states and adequate guidance should be developed and provided to help implement its standards and recommended practices.

Additionally, ICAO audits and capacity building initiatives should be used as primary tools to strengthen aviation security, including cargo in non-EU countries. The EU should play an active role in these activities as such actions will not only improve the security in those countries but will also vastly benefit global trade. Although the terrorist plot on 30 October failed, it caused delays which cost companies around the world millions of euros. The only way to make aviation transport more secure is by acting on a global scale.


Air Cargo departing from EU airports

(2009 data)

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