Air Cargo Security

Post 9/11, enhanced security measures were immediately implemented by Canada and most other nations to address new and increased security threats.  The security enhancements were directed principally at the threat posed by the commandeering of aircraft.  Primary improvements were in screening of passengers and baggage as well as cockpit security.  Remaining gaps have been identified including the threat posed by cargo and mail carried on passenger aircraft.

There are two primary types of security threats relative to air cargo: the placing of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the cargo, and the commandeering of an all-cargo aircraft for use as a weapon.

Threats to air cargo differ from threats to passenger and baggage screening given the considerable volume, diversity of origins and destinations of air cargo; the physical size and contents of the shipments; and the size and sophistication of companies sending cargo.  Threats can also be introduced at any point in the supply chain before the cargo reaches the airport.  Finally, the technology capable of screening (without unacceptable delay) the variety, quantity, and sizes of all cargo arriving at airports does not, and will not, exist at airports in the foreseeable future.

In response to the identified threats posed to air cargo, Transport Canada received $39 million in Budget 2006 to develop and pilot components of an Air Cargo Security Program. Budget 2009 provided a further $14.3 million to implement priority air cargo security initiatives.  Building on the foundation and momentum of the pilot components and priority initiatives, Budget 2010 provides Transport Canada with $95.7 million over five years to implement a comprehensive Air Cargo Security Program.

Transport Canada has been consulting regularly with Canadian stakeholders on an enhanced air cargo security program. The level of voluntary participation and positive feedback received by the Program during consultations confirm general industry acceptance of the need to strengthen air cargo security.

While new security requirements may add to the financial burdens of some industry members; any delay, diversion or re-screening of air cargo bound for the United States or abroad because of real or perceived deficiencies in security would be devastating to Canadian commerce.  By aligning Canada's security regime with major partners, a level playing field will be developed.  

Transport Canada has introduced enhancements to the regulatory framework for air cargo security in Canada. New security measures for air cargo came into force in December 2009, the first step in a phased approach to set up a secure supply chain for air cargo.  These measures address security gaps and bring Canada in-line with international partners.

The current regulatory framework allows for 100 % of air cargo to be secured prior to being loaded onto an aircraft.  Secured is defined as accepted by an air carrier from the secure supply chain or screened by the air carrier by one of the Transport Canada-approved screening methods (x-ray, trace, canine or physical search).

Transport Canada will continue to work with industry to enhance the regulatory framework, introduce new screening technologies and processes, and strengthen the comparability of air cargo security programs amongst international partners.

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