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New Security Programs in Air Freight: ACAS


After the Yemen Incident (bombes destined for the US which almost passed through the pre-arrival security declarations), American Customs has started a new system called ACAS (Air Cargo Advanced Screening). The project which is currently in a pilot-test-phase in North America is inspiring the EU-Commission and a similar program is being studied for Europe.

In both cases (US-ACAS and a possible EU regulation), EU operators will be affected. In the US, ACAS is an air-security program which adds to the existing security programs (ISF, CSI…). The level of data which must be sent is that of the House Waybill and the declaration should be sent as early as possible but at the very latest two hours before loading on the plane. US Customs can respond with a “Do Not Load” message.

Export freight forwarders and export handling agents (from Europe and elsewhere) may find themselves on the front-line of this American regulation. First, there will be a formal obligation to provide very detailed information. But it is also under discussion of making the foreign freight forwarder (at export) legally responsible for providing this data directly to US Customs. This implies that the freight forwarder can communicate electronically with US Customs (which, of course, CONEX can help facilitate) but also possibly needing to put in place a customs bond and identification in the US – or hiring a local agent to handle all this (obviously at a fee)… The final regulation is expected towards the end of 2012. But it is now, during the pilot period, that US Customs are receptive to concerns from Trade. Once the regulation is published, it will be too late.

In Europe, it seems that the express freight community is pushing for the adoption of an EU-ACAS system. According to the last available information, an internal study was conducted by the Commission but not published (because the study concerned also risk-analysis models) and a pilot project should be launched soon. But for the moment, the EU is primarily observing the US implementation and will surely take inspiration from this. Airlines are bringing to the attention of the Commission that the model being studied for express freight is not the same model as traditional air freight.

What will be the impact on Trade’s processes in the EU? Firstly, the detail of information to be produced to the airlines. But especially a reorganization of the timeline of producing data in the logistics supply chain. Data will need to be produced several hours before the flight in order to accomplish the risk analysis which will allow the freight to be loaded. It is also not yet clearly defined who will be producing this data directly to customs.