I have worked in air logistics for most of my career and am extremely passionate about it. And you can probably imagine that regulatory compliance in this industry is complicated. At Maergo, we move cargo every day on existing space with passenger airlines in the U.S. So thinking about safety, security, and risk mitigation is front and center for us.
For the industry as a whole, security wasn’t always driving operations. The September 11, 2001 attacks resulted in the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which became effective on November 19, 2001 through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It took six more years for the development of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 which mandated the screening of all cargo on passenger aircraft. To get to 100%, this screening program deadlines were set up in two stages. The first was screening 50% of all cargo on U.S. passenger aircraft by February 03, 2009, followed by screening 100% of all cargo on U.S. passenger aircraft by August 03, 2010. Think about that for a minute. Prior to 2009 – not that long ago – cargo moving on passenger aircraft in the U.S. was not screened at all. Cargo is placed in the belly of the airplanes just below where the passengers sit. And pre-2009, could have included any types of goods, dangerous or not.
The TSA has also developed Air Cargo Security programs for all parties involved in transporting cargo on passenger aircraft within the United States. This includes airports, airlines, and other entities including Maergo who tender cargo to passenger airlines every day. I remember the first public meeting held by the TSA in a restaurant near O’Hare airport. There were about 30 people in the room that included local airlines, freight forwarders, local truckers and the newly formed TSA. Federal Aviation Administration employees were also in attendance because at the time they had air cargo security functions. It was completely disorganized with people speaking over each other. Everyone was so nervous about what the future held.
We have come a long way since those days where we didn’t know all that could potentially hurt us. It is such a breath of fresh air working for Maergo as everyone here completely supports my compliance efforts. Maergo takes compliance seriously and has supported me in getting re-elected to the Airforwarders Association’s Board of Directors where I sit on the Regulatory Compliance Committee. I’m also involved with other committees to ensure we stay on top of regulations and have a voice in driving new regulations being enacted into law. I know I may sound like a compliance geek, but I love being involved in the creation of these regulations.
The Air Cargo Security programs include Sensitive Security Information (SSI) that cannot be shared publicly. However, one area that has some public disclosure is the Known Shipper Program. I like to talk about this program because it is not generally known to people outside of the cargo industry. The TSA requires us to maintain an approved known shipper program where the TSA identifies and approves the known shipper status for qualified shippers to transport their cargo on passenger aircraft in the U.S. Our compliance team at Maergo manages this program daily to ensure our cargo continues to move through commercial aircraft seamlessly. We do the hard work so our customers don’t have to. By investing in this level of compliance, we also benefit from the ability to be agile. Sometimes shippers don’t understand this program because it applies to passenger aircraft and not to airlines operating full cargo aircraft. However, having the ability to switch back and forth between passenger and cargo airlines provides us with additional flexibility to move cargo quickly when disruptions occur. I also like the fact that these security requirements set forth by the TSA help keep the cargo secure from loss. All of these extra security requirements along with cctv, chain of custody, known shipper programs and other initiatives help ensure the cargo resides in a secure environment. So, while the security programs can seem challenging at times and change often, they simultaneously provide for safe transport of our clients’ goods and protect the traveling public. And that makes me feel like I am contributing something exceptionally important and positive to our industry. I’m so thankful that Maergo allows me to do more than just the basics for compliance and supports me in my efforts to continually improve those programs by working directly with TSA and DHS with the AfA.
I know they don’t hear this much, but I’d like to extend a thank you to the TSA for keeping us all safe and continuing to work with the air cargo industry so that these vital programs work for us all.