Improving the security of air cargo consignments must not be achieved at the cost of crippling the industry, says IATA.
And the industry must make websites that encourage individuals to ship packages by air to face up to their responsibilities for ensuring consignments are safe. If this is not done, a possible "catastrophe" is looming, says IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani.
Speaking at the IATA World Cargo Symposium in Istanbul today, Bisignani said that significant progress on cargo security has been made over the past year in collaboration with the US Department of Homeland Security. The topic leapt to prominence in 2010 after the discovery of two explosive devices disguised inside ink cartridges shipped from Yemen and discovered on freighter aircraft in Dubai and the UK.
However, Bisignani also warns that many politicians and governments are planning changes to air cargo security that could severely affect the industry.
"We must resist the knee-jerk call for 100% cargo screening. The industry must be secure with effective measures that facilitate the speed needed to support global commerce," he says.
"Air cargo security must be based on a combination of three measures - supply chain security, scanning technology and better use of e-freight data."
IATA wants to focus on the cargo supply chain and emphasises keeping shipments secure from the time of packing to being loaded on board an aircraft. The organisation's Safe Freight Initiative tackles this and is being piloted in Malaysia, with a target of two other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, to adopt it this year.
However, warns Bisignani, there is "an emerging risk with internet-based commerce that we must address".
"Individual sellers through websites are not professional shippers. They don't know their responsibilities to label, pack and declare dangerous goods. "All air cargo stakeholders must find a way to bring these websites to action to inform their customers of their responsibility. And we must do this fast, before we have a catastrophe."
Just 2% of global cargo travels by air, but it makes up 11% of airlines' revenues, notes Bisignani. This should be protected and strengthened but, like the rest of the aviation industry, is threatened by the current spiralling cost of fuel.