After 9/11, security concerns significantly increased in the United States. One area that saw a large increase was the airport systems, primarily within air cargo. The new security programs implemented are meant to ensure safety from explosives by requiring all cargo to be 100 percent screened before it boards air carriers. Over the years the program has changed to ensure efficiency within the flow of commerce. To ensure that continues, additional approaches such as public and private canine teams have been added to the program.

What is the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP)?

The Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) is a response to the implementing recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 which tries to mitigate the threats of explosive attacks. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was mandated that any and all air cargo that was to be transported on passenger aircraft originating in the US would have to go through a 100 percent screening process the same way as personal luggage. The organization in charge of handling this operation is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and they were required to have all cargo 100 percent screened by August 3rd, 2010.

During the start of the program, the TSA noticed a slowing in the efficiency of the screening as cargo could only get screened at the airport’s limited facilities. As cargo variety and supply increases, the screening process has become more complex and inefficient than screening individual luggage and has caused a blockade within the global supply chain. To combat that problem, the TSA  created the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) which moves the process outside of the airport. The CCSP is a voluntary program that functions to offset the pressures the airports face by allowing shippers, third-party logistics providers (3PLs), air forwarders and independent screening services to assist in the 100 percent screening process. Once cargo has been screened at a Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF), it can be transported through a strict chain of custody to the airport, where it can then be loaded directly onto the aircraft without going through another screening.

Millions of dollars have been spent on technology and equipment within the program. Technology-based solutions to screening cargo include,

  • 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

As TSA states on their website, “The program is a practical, supply chain solution, which provides security while ensuring the flow of commerce.” CCSP creates a network of screening facilities that allow businesses to get their cargo screened at the most cost-effective point in their supply chains, alleviating the burden which slows performance and in turn supplementing efficiency back into the flow of commerce.

What is a Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF)?

Any voluntary agency who wants to join the CCSP needs to first apply to become a Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF). There are many organizations that qualify to be in the program. The entry requirement is that the organization deals 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.

These facilities must screen cargo using a TSA approved security program and follow a strict chain of custody from the CCSF to the airport and onto an aircraft. 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

There are an estimated three hundred companies that have become Certified Cargo Screening Facilities under the TSA’s direction and new companies are added to the list often. When a CCSF shipper transports its freight to a forwarder, then it will have to use a forwarder that has been certified by the TSA. Individual airline companies will ultimately be responsible for ensuring that cargo on their flights has been screened prior to take off. If an airline cannot verify the cargo has been screened in any way, then they must rescreen the cargo in the airport’s facilities before it is loaded onto an aircraft.

Issues with CCSP Deployment

The largest issue that CCSP is currently dealing with is when cargo is palletized or on a skid. By TSA’s rules, each individual case/item must be screened, not just the pallet as a whole. Depending on the product and distributor, that can be 5 items, to 5,000 items. Some pallets and skids that do not fit into the screening machines then need to be taken apart, causing the process to slow significantly. Shipments boarding narrow body aircraft are not skidded. Shipments boarding wide-body aircraft is most likely skidded cargo.

Another issue in relation to this is that if the economy starts to boom again, the amount of cargo needing to be screened will go up also. If pallets and skids have to be taken apart, that heavily slows the effectiveness of the CCSP and can lead to backlogs across the supply chain. If cargo increases back to the levels it was at in 2007, the amount of Certified Cargo Screening Facilities required to screen 100% of cargo will have to increase by 300% or more.

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 Program

The Certified Cargo Screening Facility – Canine (CCSF-K9)

In 2009, the TSA issued the Certified Cargo Screening Program regulation to create an approved system for regulated and certified entities to screen 100% of the cargo transported on passenger aircraft. With the creation of the program came the creation of a new regulatory framework that allowed third-parties to screen cargo equivalent to TSA standards, thus taking the pressure off air carriers to do all the screening. This helped to relieve air carrier’s space, time, and cost stressors associated with screening cargo using the means within airport grounds. As the program has continued, logistics issues such as slow screening of palletized cargo have come to light. The CCSP program has evolved to fix issues such as that by creating a K9 extension.

Initially, the TSA created the National Explosive Detection Canine Team Program (NEDCTP) after realizing the capabilities of using canines for screening. The initial canine program was analyzed after issues involving costs, and canine team production became apparent. The NEDCTP utilized working canine teams but did not allow for private companies to work within the division. The biggest reason private entities were not allowed to work within the program was that the TSA had no system to regulate whether the canine and handler had the proper training. Under TSA’s guidelines, the working pair would have to be trained and successful at identifying explosive aromas within work conditions.  

In 2018, the Third-Party Canine-Cargo (3PK9 or 3PK9-C) Program was created to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. It allows private entities to undergo a certification process that aligns with TSA’s standards of operation. Non-governmental entities, acting under the approval of TSA, are also allowed to train third-party canine teams in explosive detection in accordance with TSA’s certification standards. Over time, the 3PK9 program has transformed and the most recent version is called the Certified Cargo Screening Facility-K9 (CCSF-K9).

The CCSF-K9 is an entity created with the understanding that another approved method was needed for third-parties to screen cargo to TSA standards while keeping costs minimal, and making time and place most efficient. Fulfilling requirements within sec. 1941 of the TSA Modernization Act, the K9 extension provides a method for screening cargo consistent with TSA’s authority under 49 U.S.C. 44901. The Office of Federal Register notes that the program allows three types of third-party canine participants:

  1. “3Pk9-C Certifiers (Third-Party- Canine-Cargo) who are authorized through an order issued by TSA to certify canine teams as meeting TSA’s certification requirements”
  2. “Regulated entities with an approved amendment to their security program required by 49 CFR parts 1544, 1546, or 1549 permitting the use of certified canine teams to screen air cargo”
  3. “Canine team providers (could also include an independent canine team) authorized to screen cargo consistent with security program requirements issued under the CCSP.”

Why Canines Are The Solution to Air Cargo Screening

Certified Cargo Screening Facilities only offer so much in means of screening massive amounts of cargo. The K9 extension to the Certified Cargo Screening Program and Facilities plugs the hole in the system where large cargo has to be taken apart to be screened. No single piece of technology or a combination of machines has been able to match the sensitivity and reliability that a working canine has been able to provide to the program.

One canine’s nose can contain up to 320 million sensory receptors. When a canine inhales, the millions of receptors inside its nose activate and direct the air to a part of the brain called the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb functions to process the scent down to part per million (ppt). Because of this biological complexity, their noses can distinguish particular odors and identify their sources much faster and more effectively than a machine can. Trained canines can use their natural abilities to detect explosives inside packaging before it is put on passenger aircraft as deemed by TSA’s standards. Between canine’s heightened odor sensitivity and their exceptional partnership ability with humans, they are the logical next step for the program to implement. Canines also hold an intellectual promise, as each encounter helps to build a database of smells that the canine references while working. This database has biologically been created over thousands of years and holds scents that humans cannot smell at all.

The canines are currently and continuing to show their worth in being effective and reliable methods in identifying explosive threats within the cargo. Performance testing has shown that canine screening is 97% faster than current machine run operations. As the canine program continues to grow, the protection canines provide to customers, employees, facilities, and brands will also grow.

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