Changes to Australia’s outbound airfreight security screening regulations, the Enhanced Air Cargo Examination program, went into effect on 1 March with the intent of increasing safety standards for Australia’s international outbound air cargo.

According to the Department of Home Affairs of the Australian Government, the increased measures have been introduced after a terrorist plot in Sydney in July 2017 was discovered and foiled. Cargo must now undergo piece-level examination by a Regulated Air Cargo Agent (RACA) for each outbound international cargo shipment regardless of destination, or originate from a Known Consignor and be accompanied by a Security Declaration, which does not require further examination before being uploaded to an aircraft.

These measures have been in place for US-bound cargo since 2017 on a voluntary process in which many airlines participated globally, according to the US Customs and Border Protection website. From June 2018, under the Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) program, it became mandatory to submit advanced information for all air cargo shipments arriving in the United States from a foreign location.

According to Alexis Cahalan, Principal Lawyer at Thomas Miller Law in Australia, the goal of the new Australian security regulations is “to extend the regime that was in place for screening cargo into the USA and thereby strengthen cargo safety worldwide.”

An article written by Cahalan and fellow Thomas Miller Law Marine & Transport Lawyer Janine Liang, stated that consolidated-level examinations will no longer be acceptable for air cargo. Currently, there are four approved examination methods: X-ray, Electronic Metal Detection (EMD), Electronic Trade Detection (ETD), and physical examination.

Due to the increased time necessary to conduct the thorough screenings, airlines, RACAs and Container Terminal Operators (CTOs) have expressed their inability to manage the projected increase in cargo that will need to be piece-level screened, according to Cahalan and Liang’s article. This could result in the delay of air cargo leaving Australia, and “likely increase in costs for those in the supply chain to meet expanded measures,” Cahalan said.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources at the Australian Government also warned that it’s crucial to have all required documentation ready for perishable and time-sensitive products prior to screening and factor in the time it takes to issue such documents when considering timelines.

To lessen the impact of these changes, shippers could “become an approved facility for air cargo screening,” Cahalan said. However, there is a large initial investment and lead time of equipment and staff training to consider.

Initial estimates from the air cargo sector show that the process is adding 24 hours to the normal shipment times, and shippers are advised to factor this into their schedules.