TSA looks to accelerate its air-cargo screening restrictions for inbound flights

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Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - January/February 2011

Inspection of cargo-carrying passenger flights could begin in December

The Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), which was an extensive undertaking by air carriers, freight forwarders and shippers—including pharma manufacturers—in 2009-2010 may soon be expanded to include inbound flights to the US, as well as the current program for domestic or outbound flights. A letter was recently sent from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to air carriers raising the possibility of moving up the deadline for 100% inspection of cargo from the end of 2013 to the end of this year. TSA is soliciting comments from industry over the next 30-45 days; and at least one meeting among pharma industry logistics managers has been scheduled for February to discuss the change.

Under the current Cargo Screening Program, all domestic packages being carried by passenger aircraft (which includes a substantial amount of all air cargo) must be inspected prior to loading into the airplane. However, pharma shipments, including most temperature-controlled packaging, need to be sealed and kept unopened for safe shipment. Industry and TSA worked together to establish the CCSP, so that manufacturers themselves, having been certified by TSA inspectors, could conduct the safety check themselves; many freight forwarders serving the pharma industry are also CCSP-certified.

Now, partly as a result of the late-2010 Yemen toner-cartridge incident, in which a shipment of office copiers originating in Yemen was found to contain explosives, TSA would like to accelerate the inspection timetable to include inbound flights sooner. It can be conjectured that if TSA goes forward with the accelerated schedule, pharma manufacturers and their logistics providers will be seeking a CCSP-like program for overseas locations—or will need to restrict where inbound shipments originate prior to entering the US. A third option is to arrange to have packages re-opened and inspected at by the air carrier, but that could prove to be too cumbersome and expensive.

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