The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) is maintaining its place at the forefront of aviation security by testing electronic screening of air cargo stowed on commercial flights departing from Logan International Airport. With this Massport initiative, Logan Airport will become the first major U.S. airport to electronically scan bulk air cargo in order to evaluate and assess the feasibility of such a program and develop the required operational protocols.
Representative Edward Markey, a senior member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security said, "Since September 11, Logan Airport has been a national leader in developing and implementing strategies to thwart terrorism." Under Craig Coy and his able staff, Boston residents should be confident that everything that can be done is being done to make certain that no successful terrorist attack is carried out at Logan. Massport should be commended for testing new electronic screening of air cargo, because nationwide it remains a huge loophole in our passenger plane security system.
Representative Markey has introduced the Universal Screening of Air Cargo Act (USA Cargo Act), H.R. 2455 requiring the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement physical screening and inspection of air cargo carried on passenger planes.
"From 100% bag screening to elite anti-terrorism training, Massport is leading the way on transportation security," said Massport CEO Craig P. Coy. Testing air cargo screening is a natural next step for Massport. By being a national test site for new systems and technologies, we ensure that Logan passengers get the very best in security. With the strong support of our Congressional delegation, Massport will remain on the cutting edge of security innovation.
The initial test period will run for approximately 30 days and be staffed by employees of L-3 Communications Security and Detection Systems utilizing its state-of-the-art x-ray cargo screening equipment. Additional tests of similar duration with different versions and configurations of L-3 hardware devices are also planned. The current testing phase involves the scanning of entire trucks loaded with passenger aircraft-bound cargo. This pilot program is intended only to determine the feasibility of air cargo security scanning and is not intended as a security procedure at this time.
"This is an important step to establishing a match between screening technologies and airport operations to address a threat to security that must be closed," said Joseph S. Paresi, president of L-3 Communications Security and Detection Systems.
In addition to L-3 Communications, Massport will continue to explore opportunities with other companies to test the applicability of various other technologies and procedures.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is working on its first-ever air cargo strategic plan and comprehensive rulemaking based on consensus recommendations from its Aviation Security Advisory Committee. The TSA also has plans underway to test explosive detection equipment for use on small packages at airports where cargo and baggage systems are co-located. Nationally, TSA continues to implement a threat-based risk management approach to screening air cargo by strengthening the requirements of its Known Shipper Program, developing a pre-screening system to identify suspicious shipments, conducting targeted inspections of identified suspicious cargo and aggressively investing in R&D.
Massport will share its results and data with the TSA as it develops and assesses strategies, protocols, and technologies for air cargo screening. Over the past two years, Massport has been the first airport authority to design and build an inline 100% bag screening system, deploy an anti-terrorism unit armed with submachine guns and hand held wireless computers, and implement behavior profiling to spot potential terrorists.