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By the Book: Screening room

The new regulations on international freight in the light of the failed Yemeni parcel bombs.

It was little surprise that the European Union reacted swiftly to sure up security and screening procedures in the wake of the two parcel bombs discovered in late October en route to the US from Yemen. Hidden in ink cartridges and set to detonate mid-air – one was reportedly just 17 minutes away from doing so – the explosive devices placed international freight services at the heart of the war on terror.

Within hours of the parcels’ discovery, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the US and the UK restricted all unaccompanied inbound package deliveries from Yemen and Somalia, which was considered to be a country with terrorist connections and insufficient airport security. The UK was perhaps the most proactive, mainly because one of the devices was found at the country’s East Midlands Airport but also due to memories of the Lockerbie air disaster in the 1980s, and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced a multistep plan that includes not only an extended ban on all shipments from Yemen and Somalia, but a ban on the carriage of toner cartridges larger than 500g in passengers' hand baggage on flights departing from UK airports – adding to the liquid restrictions already in place.

Of more relevance to courier companies, ink toner cartridges are also banned by air cargo into, via or from the UK unless they originated from what they call a “known” consignor, or a shipper with a proven track record and pre-approved security arrangements. All non-known consignor shipments are subject to sniffer dog and X-ray searches. The move, though, still doesn’t go as far as the US policies, though, in which every cargo shipment bound for passenger planes is X-rayed and subject to explosive detection.

Of course, it’s not simply Yemen that is a problem. In the wake of the failed attacks, two Greek nationals were arrested when a package exploded at a courier company’s office in Athens before they arrived at their intended destinations in France and Belgium. Although new regulations have not yet been imposed by Greece, police minister Christos Papoutsis stated courier companies should expect “tougher operation regulations”.

According to the International Air Transport Association, though, air-freight services carry 35 per cent of the total value of goods traded internationally. Siim Kallas, EU Transport Minister, has urged against any unwieldy measures introduced in panic. At the moment, it seems his view is holding sway – until, that is, the continent’s parliaments return from the Christmas recess.

Read more about regulations in past issues:- 

1.    New Europe Transport and Haulage Rules

2.    New Regulations Set to Ease Ash Crisis

3. Texting and driving 


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