In 2007 President George W. Bush signed the 9/11 Commission Act. According to the legislation, starting in August 2010, 100% of cargo must be screened by the piece-level before being loaded on passenger aircraft. This is critical for helping to ensure the security in the air cargo supply chain and making it safer to transport mail and packages on passenger aircraft.

    When this mandate takes effect, shippers who have goods and materials scanned at their local airports could experience significant delays, cargo backlogs and transit time increases due to the sheer volume of mail and packages. Today, 50% of all cargo is being screened, which is about nine million pounds per day. When the mandate goes into effect, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) estimates that approximately 15 million pounds of cargo will need to be screened per day.

    Fortunately, the TSA recognized early on that screening all cargo through a single point in the supply chain would have serious implications on the cargo industry. As a result, the TSA is working to provide a streamlined alternative for international shippers.

    The Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) was developed by the TSA to allow screening of cargo early in the air cargo supply chain by a trusted, vetted and audited facility. The CCSP program helps establish the integrity of a shipment through enhanced physical and security standards at Certified Cargo Screening Facilities. It also maintains the integrity of a shipment throughout the supply chain by utilizing stringent chain of custody methods. This can help organizations shipping cross-border goods, mail, marketing materials and publications reach customers safely and more efficiently around the world.

    To help ensure that the same level of security is utilized in the CCSP program as screening passenger baggage at airports, pallets must be broken down and each piece screened using TSA-approved methods. These include: physical search; advanced technology checkpoint x-ray; explosives trace detection; and decompression chambers. Shipments tendered on skids, which often arrive shrink-wrapped, must also be taken apart so individual pieces can be scanned.

    Any facility that sends cargo directly to an air carrier or indirect air carrier (IAC) may apply to become a CCSP. This includes manufacturers, warehouses, distribution centers, third-party logistics providers, indirect air carriers and airport cargo handlers.

    To qualify for the CCSP, facilities must first invest in the necessary technologies and procedures. TSA officials will audit and validate operations across a number of prerequisites. These include:
    FACILITY SCREENING: Identifying a Designated Screening Area (DSA) and control access to prevent unauthorized entry.
    PERSONNEL SECURITY: Preparing and submitting Security Threat Assessments for employees and authorized representatives.
    EMPLOYEE TRAINING: Conducting comprehensive training for anyone who screens cargo, handles screened cargo or has unescorted access to the DSA.
    SCREENING PROCESSES: Conforming to heightened TSA standards.
    CHAIN OF CUSTODY: Adhering to detailed requirements, including documentation, tamper-evident tapes and locks as well as constant in-person escorts.
    Companies that deal in sensitive cargo, including high-tech products, perishable goods, pharmaceuticals and fine art, may require even more specific screening processes and procedures.

    Tips for Preparing for the Mandate
    1. Evaluate your international mailing program, postal and carrier expenses — Transit time is key to the movement of mail and packages. Make sure you consider what impact screening will have on your mail internationally, including delivery dates.
    2. Learn and follow the cargo screening legislation — One of the most important things that shippers can do right now to prepare for the mandate is to educate themselves and close any knowledge gaps on the specific requirements. Important links to references include
    3. Conduct a security impact analysis — Evaluate how and when your international mail and packages in the cargo supply chain are currently being screened today and what your plans are in 2010 to meet the mandate. If you are working with a mail services provider, make sure you inquire about what their plans are and what they are doing to work towards the deadline.
    4. Consider working with a Certified Cargo Screening Facility — TSA-certified facilities can help process and screen cargo to be delivered directly to the airlines for faster, uninterrupted transportation of international mail and packages. This can help eliminate delays at air carriers and ensure mail and packages reach their final destinations on time, in their original condition.

    Taking a proactive approach to preparing for the next generation of mail security will be critical for international mailing success in 2010 and beyond. By incorporating some of these key actions now, shippers can position their organizations for greater efficiency, reduced costs and ensure the security of packages and mail.
    ROBERT DIVINCENZO is president, International Services, for Pitney Bowes Inc.