Getting the ACC3 together

posted on 4th April 2018

The European Commission moved rapidly to enhance the security of incoming air cargo into Europe following two incidents in October 2010 when bombs originating in Yemen were discovered en route to the US.

Thanks to Saudi intelligence, explosives packed in computer printer cartridges, which had travelled on both passenger aircraft and freighters without detection, were intercepted at stopovers in Dubai and at East Midlands Airport in the UK. The narrow escape led, just 10 months later, to the adoption of Regulation EU1082, known to those carriers affected as ACC3. The acronym stands for “air cargo or mail carrier operating into the EU from a third country airport”.

By February 2012, carriers bringing cargo into Europe had to sign up to a “declaration of commitments” as the first step towards obtaining ACC3 approval. Essentially, this was a series of promises to the civil aviation authority of an EU member state (and this by extension to the whole EU) to the effect that cargo would not be accepted unless it was fully secured and the carrier was aware of what the shipment was, where it originated and what had happened to it in transit.

EU1082 enters into force on 1 July. From this date, a carrier will be able to fly cargo into the EU only if an independent validator, accredited by a member state, has confirmed that the carrier’s operations meet required security standards at any airport that is a final point of departure for Europe.

Speaking at a media briefing in December, Mike Woodall, project leader for independent validation and regulatory engagement at IATA, said this was likely to be a less complex issue for non-European carriers that typically operate to Europe – even if it is to multiple locations – from a single hub or a small number of major airports. However, European carriers are in the reverse position, and will have to validate most of the stations across their networks from which they operate into their home hubs.

IATA believes more than 1,000 stations are likely to be affected immediately by EU1082, while a consultancy that made its own assessment on behalf of the European Commission arrived at a figure of 700 airports requiring validation this year, and 2,700 more by 2019.

Exemptions

There are exemptions. Woodall, who is on a two-year secondment to IATA from his role as head of security regulation at the UK’s Department for Transport, explains that airports in countries that are outside the EU but in the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), plus Switzerland, which is outside the EEA but has a similar agreement with the EU, are automatically understood to be compliant with the regulation. Also exempt are 12 additional countries assessed as having safe procedures and appearing on the so-called “Green List” that EU member states can make available to carriers on request.

There are a number of ways in which the industry can reduce the effort and cost of the validation process. One is “mutualisation”, in which a number of entities agree to make use of a single validator in one location at the same time, reducing potential disruption as well as the validator’s travel and accommodation costs.

A second route is for those handlers or forwarders that provide screened or secured cargo to carriers to volunteer to be independently validated in their own right instead of multiple times by each carrier, and thus become an RA3. One of two designations running parallel to ACC3 for carriers, RA3 refers to regulated agents in third countries. Known consignors sending air freight to the EU can also choose to go for their own validation, and would become a KC3.

The RA3 route

For example, dnata has become the first handling agent in the MENA region to be certified RA3, removing the immediate need for each carrier it looks after at Dubai International to separately validate the company. It took three to four months to go through this process and the company is now repeating the exercise at the new Dubai World Central airport, where it hopes to be validated by May.

The main challenge for the company was to align its existing security systems with the requirements of the new regulation, ready to pass pre-certification audits. “But as we had related systems and procedures in place already, the certification process went ahead without any major setbacks,” a dnata spokesman says.

“The main cost was with respect to the certification audits, which was around 20,000 dirhams (US$5,450). Minor procedural changes relating to acceptance, transit, screening and documentation were made to accommodate the requirements of RA3, based on the feedback we received, and are being implemented as part of routine enhancements.”

He says carriers using validated dnata facilities can rely on secure handling of their freight, while the benefit of RA3 to dnata is that “it reduces the time we have to engage with each carrier and their corresponding teams if they were to conduct independent verification audits”.

Bangkok Flight Services is another example of a handler that has gone down the RA3 route.

Another way in which carriers can reduce the impact of EU1082 is to request “road map” approval, Woodall explains. “They may have 100 last points of departure to the EU, but can apply for approval through a sampling process. If they have a credible in-house process they can do 5% of validations per year instead of having to do it all up front.

“This rolling programme spreads the burden, especially for Europe-based carriers, and some have already received approval for this approach from their allocated EU state appropriate authority.”

Validating the validators

The Consignment Security Declaration (CSD) is the most practicable tool for a carrier to confirm that cargo and mail destined for the EU has been screened or comes through a secure supply chain. IATA developed a standardised electronic CSD in cooperation with the industry and regulators to streamline this process, but Woodall says a paper version can be used in countries that do not yet permit electronic declarations. The paper version recently received ICAO endorsement.

The elephant in the room, however, was that for many months after the adoption of EU1082, nothing was done about recruiting the small army of validators that were going to be needed, training them, assessing them to a common, approved standard and placing them on an official EU register from which carriers and others looking to validate themselves could select.

With the clock ticking, IATA established the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Geneva. The association has engaged face to face with more than 800 individuals via one-day awareness sessions, three-day “readiness workshops” and customised in-house training programmes to help the industry understand the practical impact of the regulation.

After putting three trainers in place, CEIV launched a validator training course last year, which comprises a week of intensive classroom training leading to a two-part, six-hour exam. “There’s a 15% failure rate and in many ways that’s a good thing,” Woodall says. “It’s not a case of turn up, fall asleep, pass. Candidates have to earn this. They have to give up a week of potential employment and pay their living expenses in Geneva, plus the cost of the course.”

Of 96 would-be validators put through background checks and a pre-approved process by EU governments, 84 have so far achieved the 80% minimum examination pass mark. Successful candidates receive a certificate from IATA, but it is the responsibility of the EU member state that first put them forward to formally accredit them and place them on the EU database.

Seventy-nine have so far been accredited as independent validators. Some of the remainder are regulators themselves, Woodall says, or for other reasons do not wish to offer their services commercially to the industry.

It is unclear whether there are yet enough validators to help carriers meet the looming deadline. “We will continue to train as many prospective validators as states send, but the supply of candidates coming forward for training is drying up,” Woodall says.

So what will happen on 1 July if carriers have key staging posts en route to Europe that have not been independently validated?

“If any stations are not compliant, European regulators will ban those carriers from bringing all cargo into Europe. The mechanism for this is still being debated but the regulation is clear,” Woodall says.

“We’ve said to the regulators, what does non-compliance look like? Does it mean that inspectors will be standing on the ramp at a destination airport, saying ‘you must not offload that cargo’? They’re not saying they will prohibit aircraft from landing, and are proposing to negotiate a stepped approach to attaining compliance. But eventually they will run out of patience and look to impose sanctions.”

The regulations allow carriers to apply for an extended deadline for “objective reasons” including inability to contract an authorised validator, or where a location is so dangerous that a state may have to undertake its own validation. But the wider political issue, Woodall acknowledges, is that certain countries’ civil aviation authorities do not accept that their carriers should be subject to the new EU requirement at all and may be looking to delay or negotiate validation requirements via direct engagement with EU authorities.

Some states are “less than amused”, he says, and one has written to all regulated agents and carriers saying they must not permit validators in without written authorisation.

Where there is a stand-off, Woodall assumes the EC will need to explain at state-to-state level why it has introduced the new requirement, pointing out the likely consequences in terms of lost air freight exports from non-compliant locations if a satisfactory solution cannot be found.

Compliance is potentially “a good story to tell” and airports in reluctant countries may be able to position themselves as new regional hubs, he suggests. But he admits: “For some states the conversation is quite new and feelings are still raw.”

Airline view

Roland Mandel, head of aviation security at Lufthansa Cargo, says that when Green List countries such as the US and China are taken out of the equation, the carrier is left with “90 to 95” stations where it will need to comply with the new regulation.

Lufthansa is confident that its established security procedures will enable it to validate these stations over time without changing how it operates on the ground. The length of time a validator will have to spend on site, watching the screening process, examining training records and so on, will vary by size of station but should only be one to two days if enough work is done remotely in advance, Mandel predicts.

Lufthansa is taking advantage of the “road map” approach, which allows three stations or 5% of the total number of stations, whichever figure is higher, to be inspected per year.

This would technically involve the carrier validating five stations per year, though it will have put an initial seven through the process by 1 July. “We have permission from the German authorities for this and it’s pretty helpful to have this option,” Mandel says.

ACC3 validation will be built into Lufthansa Cargo’s existing schedule for auditing its stations on a regular two or three-yearly basis, he explains. “Our priority is to ensure proper security, not simply to implement rules.”

Although validating stations via regulated agents has some value, Mandel warns: “According to the Commission’s current interpretation, the handler would have to look after the complete process, from accepting cargo from the forwarder through to loading the aircraft.

“In several places, the activities of the handler do not include screening, which might be done by the military, the police or other entities. They might not want to let a validator in. We have put this question to the German authorities and the Commission, but they don’t have a clue how to deal with that.”

In certain cases, Lufthansa has made clear that it will operate to tougher standards than the EU criteria. Lufthansa Cargo CEO Karl Ulrich Garnadt, who attended IATA’s December presentation, said: “We will continue not to accept cargo from certain countries, and there are others on the Green List where we feel additional measures are necessary.”