Screening Cargo a Mammoth Duty

Companies get set for costly, time-consuming expansion of air security policy.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who led a four-year fight to require cargo screening, worries about how boxes that have been screened will remain secure while being driven to an airport.

Training and inspections

Sammon says screeners working for airforwarders will get similar training to TSA airport screeners and will be monitored by agency inspectors who'll make unannounced visits. The TSA is developing seals for screened boxes that would indicate tampering if broken. Sammon has signed up 20 airforwarders near major airports such as Chicago O'Hare to test a screening system in a few months.

Airforwarders will not be required to screen cargo they take to passenger planes. They are free to do no screening. Sammon says many will do the screening because it will help business. Airlines will have to screen cargo they receive that has not been checked.

That could "cause massive bottlenecks, because airlines don't have the manpower, equipment or real estate" to do extensive screening, says Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association. "You're going to have backlogs and products that don't make it to market on time, or store shelves that go empty. Factories could shut down because they can't get inventory parts."

Michele Siano, compliance officer for Cavalier, says TSA officials have told her cargo packages might have to wait four days at an airport if her company does not screen them. "There is no option for us" but to screen packages, Siano says.

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