© Amy Walters computer security
© Amy Walters

Sniffer dogs are straining at the leash to reinforce air cargo security in the US.

On the other hand, the dearth of funding for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is about to make life more difficult for forwarders, as the agency’s interface will no longer support a range of web browsers for access.

Come August 15, some cargo agents will no longer be able to access TSA platforms, including the Indirect Air Carrier Management System (IACMS) and the Known Shipper Management System (KSMS).

According to the US Airforwarders’ Association, the two platforms are the primary interfaces to transact annual certification validations, authorised representative listings, known shipper validations, security threat assessments and the viewing of alerts containing ‘Sensitive Security Information’.

“Any average forwarder will use the systems many times each week for these purposes; an experience that under the best of circumstances can be a challenge,”said Brandon Fried, the association’s executive director.

Under orders from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where it is housed, the TSA is limiting access to its web platforms to users that employ Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 browsers as of August 15. Companies that use other web browsers, like Chrome, Safari or Firefox, will have problems using the IACMS and KSMS platforms.

The TSA justified the decision with financial constraints. It said ongoing support for other browsers would substantially increase costs. As Microsoft products are widely used in departments of the DHS, Internet Explorer 11 was chosen as the browser of choice.

The agency has assured the Airforwarders’ Association that it will support Internet Explorer 11 for at least the next five years.

Already, ahead of the official cutoff date, AfA members that use Safari or Chrome have reported issues with the IACMS and KSMS platforms. The browsers work for general access to view alerts, but processing security threat assessments and other transactions has been more challenging.

“This issue is a result of insufficient investment in DHS technology platforms required to meet modern-day realities,” said Mr Fried.

Insufficient funding for the TSA has been a long-standing bugbear for the air cargo industry. A report produced by the Office of the Inspector General in 2009 drew attention to technical problems with the TSA’s KSMS platform.

Despite subsequent efforts to improve both the KSMS and IACMS, both systems still suffer technical issues causing delays in the known shipper vetting process and hampering access to belly capacity on passenger flights for forwarders. Response times and turnarounds are too slow to meet the requirements of today’s expedited supply chains, the AfA claims.

The TSA is displaying better momentum in the push to allow privately operated canine inspection of air cargo to beef up security.

“They told us ‘noses on boxes by December 31’. It looks like they are on target with that expectation,” Mr Fried reported.

Forwarders, airlines and handlers have lobbied hard for the admission of private canine screening to add a much needed further layer to security. The rise in air cargo volumes over the past two years has added urgency to their clamour.

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