Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none


Brussels, 1 June 2012

EU-US security agreement allows cheaper and faster air cargo operations

The European Commission and the U.S. Transport Security Administration (TSA) have declared that they mutually recognise their respective air cargo security regimes from 1 June 2012 on. This recognition, following extensive negotiation spans both sides of the Atlantic and will eliminate duplication of security controls and the need to implement different regimes depending on the destination of air cargo.

What are the current rules?

The EU has in place very strict security controls on all cargo leaving the EU.

1. Air cargo which departs from an EU Member State must be subjected to security measures as laid down in the general regulation on aviation security (EC Regulation 300/2008). This regulation defines the security controls required for cargo leaving the EU, normally including physical screening and protection of air cargo from interference. It also establishes the conditions required to ensure a secure supply chain, for example when cargo is packed at a factory for shipment by air.

2. Under EU rules, once cargo is adequately controlled in the EU, it can transfer to another flight within the EU, without further controls provided it has been protected from interference (one stop security).

3. Following the Yemen attack the EU went further and adopted strict new rules requiring additional controls on cargo flying into the EU from third countries under EC Regulation 859/2011. This regulation required for the first time security controls at source, before the cargo arrives in the EU.

To note, all security controls are paid for by air cargo operators, either performed in-house by the company itself or contracted out to specialised security companies.

Security controls also take time – frequently requiring cargo to be unpacked, and moved to a different facility equipped with the necessary equipment.

US air cargo controls

In addition to the EU controls, the TSA (US Transportation Security Administration) requires that air cargo flown into the U.S. has to be submitted to their own controls defined in security programmes issued by the TSA. The US is the only major EU trading partner which imposes such additional requirements today.

The US air cargo controls typically includes:

  • Physical screening, very similar in nature to that already performed in the EU.

  • Because screening has to take place at the last point of departure before the US, this does not recognise one stop security in the EU and the secure supply chain of the EU. For example, air cargo destined for the U.S. and physically screened in Budapest, but transferring in Frankfurt, has to be rescreened in Frankfurt as the last point of departure.

The US rules are set out in the Aircraft Operator Standard Security Programme (AOSSP) and for non U.S. carriers in the Model Security Programme (MSP).

What is the problem?

The current situation does not take into consideration the extensive controls already applied at EU airports and often require duplication of certain controls or running separate security regimes for U.S. bound cargo in parallel to applying EU rules.

The cost for implementing separate regimes can be high and, in addition, significantly affect the speed and efficiency of operations for shippers transporting goods to their customers. Carriers also report that difficulties to comply with different security requirements have forced them to stop carrying certain types of cargo. Most importantly, the duplication does not offer additional security benefit.

Why does this matter?

The current regime represents a major impediment to an important commercial sector and to EU-US trade.

  • The EU and U.S. are each other’s single most important destination for air cargo.

  • Air cargo traffic between the EU and the U.S. amounts to over a million tonnes a year travelling each way across the Atlantic, which is over 20% of all outbound air cargo from the EU (2010 figures).

  • The goods transported by air from the EU to the U.S. represent a value of over 107 billion euro, which is 27% of the value of all goods exported by air by the EU (2011 figures).

  • Many processes in the air cargo business involve security measures, ranging from the training of staff, through shipping documents to physical screening facilities and handling processes. It is therefore difficult to estimate precisely the cost of security measures. Nevertheless, costs that can be directly attributed to security measures can amount to 1% to 4% of turnover depending on the carrier's profile. Up to one-fifth of this amount can be attributed to duplicate measures on transatlantic traffic.

What are we proposing?

The European Commission and TSA have declared that they mutually recognise their respective air cargo security regimes from 1 June 2012..

In other words, the European Commission has declared that the U.S. air cargo security standards are equivalent to Community standards and TSA has declared that the Community air cargo security standards are equivalent to the U.S. standards. On this basis, neither EU nor U.S. requires additional or different security measures for air cargo flown into its territory from the territory of the other side.

What are the benefits?

From 1 June 2012, air carriers flying cargo from the EU to the U.S. only need to implement in full the EU legal requirements which lay down obligations on the screening of consignments and on a regulated secure supply chain. No additional measures are required by U.S. TSA.


(1) A single set of controls applies for all cargo leaving the EU, including for the US. There is no duplication of EU and US controls. There is no rescreening of US bound cargo if transferred within the EU as one-stop security and the secure supply chain within the EU is recognised.

(2) The EU also recognises the U.S. cargo security regime as meeting the recently adopted EU requirements for cargo being flown into the EU from third countries. Therefore, no additional measures are required from air carriers transporting cargo shipments from the U.S. to the EU.

The elimination of duplication, by a conservative estimate, saves several tens of millions of euros per year in the EU alone, without any loss of security. Not only will it minimise the costs for security controls, it will make an important time saving and greatly facilitate the movement of commerce between the EU and U.S.

What are the next steps?

Both sides also agreed to exchange information on the evolution and the implementation of each other’s security regimes, including participation in inspections, in order to ensure continued and full compliance by air cargo operators.

More information: IP/12/544


Helen KEARNS: 02/298 76 38

Dale KIDD: 02/295 74 61

Side Bar