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Gov't looking closer into air cargo security

FedEx workers sort through packages as they are placed on trucks to be delivered in Miami, Fla.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: According to the government, each and every piece of cargo that goes on a domestic flight here is screened by security. That's not the case with inbound international flights.

So the news that one of the explosive packages from Yemen last week traveled onboard a passenger aircraft has both the government and the cargo industry looking at how that international cargo is examined and screened.

Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: Steve Lott is with the International Air Transport Association. He's at a conference in Germany, meeting with airline and airport officials, tech companies -- and government representatives. The conference just kicked off and he says:

Steve Lott: On day one, we saw cargo security being the hot topic.

What to do about it without paralyzing business?

Lott: Industry sent a loud message to government that we can't do this alone; the burden shouldn't be completely on the shoulders of the airline industry.

Lott says the U.S. government has been trying to persuade other governments to screen better. Technically, all cargo sent to the U.S. should be screened where it's loaded. But that's easier said than done. Chris Yates is an aviation security analyst.

Chris Yates: We can only move as fast as we can move.

The problem is that countries can't agree on how to define "screening." Does it mean scanning bulk cargo electronically? Or inspecting each and every envelope and package, by hand?

Yates: If everybody tried to do that 100 percent screening amongst the high volume nations, then airports would simply grind to a halt.

Shipping ports would have the same problem. Chris Yates says that since 9/11, a lot of money has gone into passenger screening. Cargo screening technology is still playing catch-up. So companies and countries have to screen more effectively until that technology is both available and affordable. And how soon could that happen?

Yates: There's the $60,000 question.

Chris Yates says cooperation is key, but there's really no quick fix.

In Los Angeles, I'm David Gura, for Marketplace.

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