Cargo executives are warning that a new US regulation requiring 100% screening of air freight will severely disrupt trade and create huge costs to the industry if it goes ahead next year as planned.

The Transportation Security Administration will controversially enforce the rule next August, requiring all air cargo in the bellyholds of passenger airliners to be physically screened - either through detection, x-ray, or canine or hand search.

"If US Congress does not change its view for 100% screening, it will totally disrupt trade to the USA, will have huge cost implications and force cargo to come into the country other ways," warns Wally Nahr of the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding Agents.

Speaking during the Air Freight Asia 2009 cargo conference at the show, Nahr said that while he believed that 100% screening would improve safety, it would not make cargo operations 100% safe.

This view was shared by every other member of the conference panel, which included David Fielder of air cargo association FIATA, who asks: "Does the cost warrant it on a risk/reward basis?"

Fielder points out that one way to circumnavigate the rule is to fly cargo into Canada, and then truck it across the border. Another is to fly freight on all-cargo aircraft as this does not have to comply with the TSA rule, but it cannot travel beyond its arrival airport by air without being screened.

However, Fielder expects the TSA will look to include all-cargo aircraft in the longer term once the belly freight rule has been implemented.

Nahr, who says that the European Union has written to the US government to object to the regulation, believes that a major stumbling block is the fact that the TSA will not have sufficient manpower to complete the certification.

Industry sources expect that while it is unlikely that the USA will delay the timing of the 100% rule, it will work with companies and countries that cannot meet the deadline to avoid serious disruption.

Source: Flight Daily News