What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us

Gov’t looking closer into air cargo security

Marketplace Staff Nov 2, 2010

Gov’t looking closer into air cargo security

Marketplace Staff Nov 2, 2010


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.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.