After 9/11 the United States became much more aware of the possibilities and places in which explosives could be hidden. One largely targeted area is the airline industry. In an effort to make the industry and those working in it safer, legislation was created that required all cargo to be 100% screened. Through the program’s life, modifications have been made across the board to improve efficiency. K9 and handler teams are the newest and most logical step in combating multiple efficiency issues within the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) and keeping up with the flow of commerce’s rapid pace.  

What is TSA’s 100% Cargo Screening Mandate?

On September 11th, 2001, our nation and its airline services were taken advantage of and used in an attack against American citizens. After one of the most somber and grim days in America’s history, came an influx of governmental regulations and mandates that were meant to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks. In an ever-changing world of extremists and rogue individuals is a constantly changing amount of ways that explosives can be concealed within items. Explosives concealed by these threat actors not only act to cause harm but also collect information about the security and screening processes within the air cargo industry. Within their collection, terroristic individuals or groups can understand how to compromise the system as a whole as well as be able to dodge security and jump through loopholes to accomplish their sinister goals.

One mandate providing security to the airport industry is the TSA 100% Cargo Screening Mandate. This mandate is part of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 which was signed in August by the current president at the time, George W. Bush. This new law said that The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was mandated to ensure that all air cargo being transported on passenger aircraft originating in the U.S. had to go through a 100% piece-level screening process. It also mandated DHS to create a system to accomplish this goal by August 3rd, 2010. The organization they put in charge of system creation and implementation was the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

What is the Certified Cargo Screening Facility – Canine Program?

Certified Cargo Screening Facility - Canine 3PK9 3PK9-C TSA CCSF-C CCSF-K9 CCSP Air Forwarders Air Cargo Security Cargo Screening k9 Air Cargo Screening Certified Cargo Screening ProgramThe TSA’s first step was to develop a screening program called the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP). The program maneuvered into the direct supply chain by starting in airports. Initially, airports housed screening systems equipped with technology to process the air cargo coming in before it went onto their designated aircraft. As the economy recovered, so did businesses and the flow of commerce increased to a level that airport screening systems could not accommodate. To relieve the pressures on airport screening systems, the TSA created the Certified Cargo Screening Facilities (CCSF). These facilities are third-party and voluntary. Any agency who wants to join the CCSP and become a CCSF simply needs to apply. Organizations that meet the entry requirements to become CCSF deal with air cargo that goes directly or indirectly from an air carrier. This includes but is not limited to manufacturers, warehouses, distribution centers, third-party logistics providers, indirect air carriers, airport cargo handlers, and independent cargo screening facilities.

To be a Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF), organizations must screen cargo in accordance to a TSA approved security program which follows a strict set of rules ensuring chain of custody from the CCSF to the airport is upheld. Facilities certified under the CCSP must follow rules created by the TSA:

  • Comply with safeguarding measures created by TSA’s Security program
  • Make sure there is no corruption of the cargo throughout the chain of custody
  • Permit onsite validations and periodic inspections
  • Screen cargo as individual items and not by palletized items

Roughly three hundred companies have become Certified Cargo Screening Facilities under this new direction and new companies are added to the list daily. These third-party screening facilities have technology used to screen cargo such as:  

  • X-Ray Devices: currently three classifications used (Single view, Dual View, and Multi View)
  • Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) Devices: handheld or desktop devices that provide a reading of residual explosive material using a swab-based collection process
  • Electronic Metal Detection (EMD) Devices: electromagnetic fields are detected by the device and an alarm is displayed if threshold levels have been exceeded

Although the devices used by the CCSP and CCSF are useful and efficient at detecting possible explosive devices within air cargo, they are not efficient in regards to large air cargo such as palletized items. Palletized items do not fit within many of the screening machines, and therefore have to be taken apart and put back together. The process heavily disrupts the efficiency of the CCSP and puts kinks in the flow of commerce.

The solution to this problem came in the form of man’s best friend: canines. The TSA started the canine solution by creating the National Explosive Detection Canine Team Program (NEDCTP). When this program failed to provide enough trained canine and handler teams, the TSA opted for an extended solution by allowing third-party canine teams to get certified by TSA’s screening requirements and work within certified facilities. The Third-Party Canine-Cargo (3PK9 or 3PK9-C) Program was created in 2018 to bridge the gap between the public and private sector. By undergoing a certification process aligned with TSA’s standards of operation, private entities can act under the approval of TSA to detect possible explosive devices in air cargo being transported to passenger aircraft. Over time, the 3PK9 program has transformed and the most recent version is called the Certified Cargo Screening Facility-K9 (CCSF-K9).

How will Cargo Screening K9 Solve The Problem for Freight Forwarders and Airlines?

Freight forwarders and airlines have one job when dealing within the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007; protection. Their number one job in relation to this legislation is to screen air cargo for explosives before it goes onto passenger aircraft originating in the US. Through the years that the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP)  has been running, the economy has changed and with it a new abundance of production. The increased flow of commerce means the supply chain has to function at peak efficiency. The K9 extension to the Certified Cargo Screening Facilities (CCSF) allows the program to function much more efficiently than in its original creation.

Canines plug the hole in the system where large cargo has to be taken apart to be screened. The various pieces of technology used by CCSFs do not have the capability to screen cargo with the same sensitivity and reliability that a working canine can provide. With the 300 million sensory receptors on a canine’s snout, a canine can detect a smell down to parts per million (ppt). Their unique biological complexity allows canines to distinguish what, and where a smell is coming from to a level that humans and machines cannot. Canines that have undergone training are even more reliable than the average canine is at identifying smells. The relationship with humans and their odor sensitivity make canines the best option for the program. This ability, as well as their efficiency in relation to palletized items, is exactly why K9’s have been brought into the CCSP. As commerce continues to rapidly grow and more air cargo is moving through the air, the logical solution for CCSF entities to stay ahead of the curve is cargo screening canines.

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