Tough new air cargo security screening requirements could result in lengthy delays or even rejection of clearance for US-bound air freight moving through Australian airports.

From July 1 this year, all airlines with direct flights from Australia to the United States need to comply with the new regulations.

The Australian Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development issued the notice to shippers and airfreight companies as the US and Australia strengthen their security cooperation.

The United States Government has made it clear that this deadline is non-negotiable and failure to comply could result in extensive hold ups or possible rejection of clearance, according to Colin Hughes, Head of Terminal Operations, Qantas Freight.

From July 1, goods will be screened by US-approved screening technology, and Australian international air cargo terminals are now equipped with new scanners. Palletised or other goods that cannot be screened will be unpacked and screened at piece level on-site at airports.

Qantas Freight will require customers to lodge freight up to 6 hours before flight departure for general freight and 4.5 hours for specialised freight. All freight must be presented loose and will be subject to screening fees. Qantas Freight also pointed out that shipments requiring screening will be subject to additional examination fees, while standard fees apply for loose lodgements.

Exporters can bypass these additional requirements at the cargo terminal by becoming a Known Consignor or by having the cargo screened beforehand by Registered Air Cargo Agents (RACA). The correct security documentation must be provided upon lodgement, but otherwise, all lodgement times and presentation requirements remain unchanged.

RACA are trained to protect international cargo. Businesses wishing to become RACA must notify the Australian Government in writing, and this process could take up to 90 days.

Transshipping freight under these new regulations will result in a minimum connection time of 8 hours from non-exempt countries, according to Hughes.

To clarify the issue of exempt or non-exempt countries, the Air Cargo Security Taskforce of The Australian Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development issued a statement: “The requirement for cargo to be examined at a piece level is a US requirement that is placed on airlines flying to the US. Individual countries will have different agreements in place for implementation dates or recognition of their current examination practices. For cargo that is transshipped via Australia to the US, if the cargo does not have documentation with it that demonstrates that it has been security screened to US requirements, it will need to be screened in Australia in line with the regulations in place to meet the US requirements before the flight to the US.”