December 18, 2017
Monday, January 13, 2014

Aviation, by far the most secure means of transportation

An Airbus A340 of Brazilian company TAM at the Minas Gerais airport in Brazil on November 10, 2010.
An Airbus A340 of Brazilian company TAM at the Minas Gerais airport in Brazil on November 10, 2010.
An Airbus A340 of Brazilian company TAM at the Minas Gerais airport in Brazil on November 10, 2010.
By Guillermo Háskel
Herald Staff

‘Argentine indifference will lead to logistics delays, higher costs, loss of markets’

Despite the spectacular and horrendous nature of terrorist attacks involving aircraft, aviation is the safest means of transportation on the planet, an international expert says.

In 2012 air transport grew 2.5 times faster than global GDP and, as from this year, the incorporation of wide-body aircraft will increase cargo hold availability by 7 percent, adds Griselda Capaldo, a researcher at the CONICET state-run think tank, a Professor at the University of Buenos Aires, and an Ambassador Scientist (2006-2012) of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung (Cologne University, Germany.)

International organizations and nations have rushed to adopt a battery of measures to ensure air traffic but, in the case of Argentina, there is no evidence that state agencies may be working to trace a strategy for the sector, something that will lead to more logistics delays, increasing costs and the loss of markets, Capaldo told the Herald in an interview.

What is your assessment on the security situation in the air cargo industry?

Between the 60s and 2000, the threats against the international civil aviation were associated to offences connected with the Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (Hijacking), misnamed “air piracy” by the Spanish-language press, and which involves taking control of an aircraft in flight, and passengers and crew hostage, in order to demand the release of terrorists who are serving prison terms, or to spread terror by making it explode in flight, or any other political purpose that is sought by means of force.

There are many examples, such as the four aircraft of Swissair, TWA, BOAC and British Airways — with passengers on board — that were seized in late 1970 by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) with the ultimate aim to overthrow King Hussein of Jordan, or the Saudi Arabian Airlines aircraft that was seized in 2000 by a terrorist cell while travelling from Jeddah to London.

There was also the explosion of Air India Flight 182, on June 23, 1985, planned by a Canada-based Sikh separatist group (Babbar Khalsa), which proposed the creation of a new state in the Punjab, India, that they would call Khalistan, or the terrorist attack concocted by Libyan intelligence agents against flight 102 of Pan American World Airways, which exploded on December 21, 1988 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, or the two attacks of September 11, 2001, perpetrated by the Jihadist network al Qaeda against American Airlines flight 11 and United 175.

What has been the trend since then?

Today, the threats for civil aviation involve hiding explosives in air cargo to detonate them once the plane arrived in the destination country. The episode that marked this new modus operandi dates from 2010. It was a failed attempt with two bombs hidden in printer cartridges sent from Yemen to the US by the terrorist-fundamentalist group al Qaeda. The explosive had a SIM card stuck to an electrical circuit inside the printer, which would have allowed to make it blow up it with a simple phone call.

What is the loss rate in the air transport sector?

These episodes of extreme violence should not confuse the reader inducing the notion that aviation develops amid a sea of risks and uncertainties. Quite the opposite, statistics show that, with a loss rate of 0.20 aircraft destroyed per 5 million flights, or 0.08 fatal victims per one million passengers, aviation is — by far — the safest means of transportation on the planet, according to IATA data.

Do you have value estimations?

This is not only the safest but also the most prosperous means, because in 2012 air travel grew 2.5 times faster than global GDP, carrying goods worth US$6.4 billion dollars. This figure represents 35 percent of the value of all goods transported around the world. By this we mean that, although 90 to 93 percent of international trade is carried by sea, the valuable cargo is usually transported by air (e.g., precious stones, artwork, or polo or pure sang horses, etc). Of this volume, North America accounts for a third of world traffic, while Asia and Europe have about 25 percent each. Latin America and the Caribbean have 10 percent, while Oceania and Africa account for about 3 percent each as a whole.

What assessment can you make of the year just ended?

In this respect, 2013 was a year — if you will — promising, as there was a sustained increase in the volume of air cargo despite global growth was not as lavish as some expected. However, in recent years, the storage capacity of the world aircraft fleet did not match the increase in air cargo traffic. The number of pure freighters has not grown.

The companies insist on the old practice of transporting goods along with passenger flights.

If we look at aircraft orders made by air companies, this situation would tend to slightly change since this year, with the incorporation of wide-body aircraft that will increase cargo hold availability by 7 percent.

What measures have been adopted to ensure air traffic?

The challenge of increasing security in the air transport chain is there, and there is consensus that the World Customs Organization (WCO) is the adequate forum to draw such regulations. The reasons given are two: a) the countries forming it represent 99 of world trade and, b) Customs have enough power and jurisdiction to accept and/or reject the entry and exit of goods into the territory of each of the states. So, with an appropriate legislation, they may demand that the information be made available in advance and by electronic means. In short, they are the ones best placed to play a central role in the security and facilitation of global trade.

In line with the work done by the WCO, the IATA (International Air Transport Association), the US, Canada and the European Union (EU) have consolidated several programmes to assess risks prior to loading, during the flight, and after unloading.

The WCO developed a Security Framework Programme (SAFE Framework) based on four basic elements and two pillars.

The basic elements are: (1) to harmonize the requirements of anticipated electronic information on incoming and outgoing and in-transit shipments, (2) that each country that joins the SAFE Framework pledges to use an approach to risk management consistent with addressing security threats, (3) that, upon a reasonable request from the receiving nation based on a methodology of comparable risk targeting, the Customs Administration of the country of dispatch undertake to carry out an inspection of the outgoing high-risk cargo and/or transportation means, preferably using non-intrusive detection equipment such as high-powered X-ray machines and radiation detectors, (4) the SAFE Framework involves benefits that Customs will give to those exporters/importers who comply with best practices and with the minimum standards of security in the supply chain.

The two pillars on which the SAFE Framework is based are: (1) Customs-to-Customs network arrangements, and (2) Customs-to-Business partnerships.

The IATA (which represents some 240 airlines) has launched a Load Safety Programme (IATA Secure Freight Programme). The US has done the same with the Air Cargo Screening Advance. Canada already has the Pre Load Air Cargo Targeting (PACT) and the Standard Operation Procedures (SOP). And the EU adopted Regulation ACC3, which, since July 1, 2014 shall prevent the import into the Community of any air cargo from a non-validated or non-recognized third country.

How far has the practical implementation of these programmes gone?

The IATA Programme, which has already been tested in nine countries, aims to ensure a supply chain of sterile and safe air freight from packaging to delivery to the destination.

In the US there are already 39 airlines participating in the Air Cargo Screening Advance, whose goal is to perform a risk assessment of the cargo before departure of the aircraft. The programme already covers 85 percent of the of shipments to that country and 80 percent of them took place at least two hours before loading/unloading of the aircraft.

The PACT and SOP implemented by Canada cover seven airlines voluntarily participating in both programmes. Freight agents will join later. This participation includes providing the same data required by the PRECISE (Pre-Departure/Loading Consignment Information for Secure Entry) system adopted by the EU.

The most complex and comprehensive measures are those implemented by the EU with the PRECISE. The pilot programme began in February 2012 with the operators Express and now includes all air carriers of freight and passengers. For the second half of 2014 all commercial air companies operating in the EU from airports from non-EU countries not incorporated into a “green list” will need a security aviation validation issued by the EU to maintain or get their appointment or obtain the ACC3 (Air Cargo or Mail Carrier operating into the Union from a Third Country Airport).

To obtain the ACC3 status, the carrier must submit a “Declaration of Commitment” through which it commits to ensure the security/safety of civil aviation before the respective authorities of the Member State of the EU to which they fly with cargo or mail. Companies validated with the ACC3 status enter a Green List that ensures that the cargo and mail destined to the EU have been controlled or come from a secure supply chain. This can be demonstrated with a Consignment Security Declaration (CSD) largely reflecting all security measures adopted by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation, an UN agency) in the Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention of 1944 to prevent acts of unlawful interference against civil aviation, as well as the Recommended Safety Practices for Air Cargo approved by the IATA under the number 1630.

Who is in charge of the verification?

Such verification must be performed by an independent validator certified by a regulatory agency of the EU, or that it accepts as reliable. To this end the IATA has created a Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) in which 65 people are already accredited as independent validators, and eleven Member States (representing over 86 percent of all the ACC3 registers required in the continent) have already accredited the CEIV training course.

How do you see Argentina’s situation regarding these issues?

Unlike what happens in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, Egypt, UAE and Jordan, we find in our country no indication that the agencies responsible for air transport and Customs may have formed a working group to study the issue and propose a strategy. No reference is made to it in the “Bases for Five-year Argentine Transport Plan 2012-2016,” submitted in November 2011 by the Secretariat of Transportation, nor government officials seem to realize the economic benefits of “secure freight.”

Malaysia, for example, may get benefits of US$1 billion to US$2 billion over five years, plus a significant increase in jobs and local investment.

We believe that the Argentine government institutional indifference will cause logistics delays which, in turn, will cause additional costs likely to lead to a loss of markets in the future that others will know how to take advantage from.

In that search for the above-mentioned clues, the only measure that could perhaps be aimed to a secure freight is the Malvina System, presented by the AFIP on November 28, 2013, during the meeting of the Customs Consultative Council and on which it worked for two years in an atmosphere of confidentiality and absolute silence. The system foresees the digitalization of procedures, the instrumentation of the e-freight (electronic bill of lading or e-airwaybill, e-AWB), the possibility of remote access, the elimination of the point-to-point communication dedicated to interaction with Customs, the creation of a single electronic window, and the work with anticipated information as instruments that could speed out operations.

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