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New cargo screening rules
Freight to undergo screening at major airports, including Yellowknife, under new regulations

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 17, 2012

As of Dec. 31, cargo on passenger flights leaving larger airports - including Yellowknife - will be subject to closer inspection.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yellowknife Airport will be affected by new security regulations for cargo taking effect Dec. 31. - NNSL file photo

The change is being made by Transport Canada to enhance air cargo security in response to possible threats to aircraft safety.

"The changes to Canada's Air Cargo Security Program apply to all cargo on passenger aircraft departing from airports where passengers and baggage are screened, regardless of the airport's geographic location," said Karine Martel, a spokesperson for Transport Canada in Ottawa.

Brian Harrold, operations manager and co-owner of Fort Smith-based Northwestern Air Lease Ltd., said his company is still looking into how it will be affected by the changes.

"It's going to affect us in four of our stations," he said, listing Edmonton, Yellowknife, Fort McMurray and Kelowna.

Harrold said Northwestern Air Lease has never had a problem with cargo security in the past.

"There would be some benefits," he said of the new regulations. "But are those benefits going to outweigh the additional cost? I really don't know."

One benefit is the new regulations will make it more difficult for people to ship illegal drugs or alcohol, Harrold noted. "We have had instances in the past where we've had packages that were illegal."

Stephen Nourse, executive director of the Northern Air Transport Association (NATA), said the impact on air carriers on Dec. 31 should be minimal.

"Transport Canada has been very good on this," he said. "They've had extensive consultations with the carriers, with the Northern Air Transport Association and have in many ways listened and have tried very hard to understand the North and the implications of these rules in the North."

Nourse said NATA impressed upon Transport Canada to take into account measures to accommodate small and remote operations.

"What they've done is they've made sure that there are ways of complying with the regs that are suitable for both large and small operators," he said, noting the key thing is Transport Canada hasn't required a $100,000 piece of screening equipment in a cargo warehouse. "There are many ways that you can comply with screening."

Nourse said a small carrier can physically search cargo.

Martel said shippers can apply to become a member of the Air Cargo Security Program by providing some basic information to the department.

Under that program, cargo which has moved through a secure supply chain can be taken on an aircraft without additional screening, unless there are signs of tampering.

By registering with the program, companies in Northern communities should experience little impact on their air cargo shipments, Martel said. "This will ensure the security of both the passenger flights and the supply chain, which involves cargo being handled at multiple stages from the point at which it is packaged until it is loaded on a plane."

Nourse said major shippers move the bulk of air freight and most will be registered.

Shippers are certified to indicate their shipments are clean, he said. "A grocery store can become a certified shipper. They're the ones packing the box. So they certify that the cargo is safe, is meeting the standard, and that cargo then has to travel in a secure vehicle with a chain of custody to the air carrier."

Martel said it is not convenient or recommended for all shippers to become members of the Air Cargo Security Program, noting, for example, that a Yellowknife-based company that sends cargo by air a few times a year may not want to join the program.

Nourse said the new system has been slowly building up over the past few years, and will be 100 per cent implemented by Dec. 31.

"I would say most of the carriers are viewing this as an unfortunate reality of the times we live in more than anything," he said. "It's in all the carriers' interest to keep their flights safe."

Flights carrying only cargo are not subject to the new rules.

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