The US Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) program became mandatory as scheduled June 12, requiring airlines flying to the US to provide advanced information of cargo shipments to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Launched in 2010 as a pilot program following an attempted bombing using explosives concealed in packages, ACAS expanded to include passenger carriers and freight forwarders on a voluntary basis. Last month, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued an interim final rule calling for it to transition to mandatory.

“The ACAS program is a vital component for CBP to prevent illicit contraband from entering, while expediting lawful commerce,” CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan said. “It was built on partnership with the express and air cargo industry and represents the government and private sector working together to solve challenging problems. The formalization of ACAS will enhance and support the security of the small parcel and air cargo industry for years to come.”

Under ACAS, participating carriers submit a subset of required pre-arrival air cargo data to CBP as soon as possible, but before loading cargo onto aircraft destined to or transiting through the US ACAS uses DHS threat information and other data to conduct a risk-based analysis of shipments that includes "targeted vetting" that identifies potential threats before they are loaded onto aircraft. 

“The screening of inbound air cargo is improved with these new regulations,” TSA administrator David Pekoske said. “Our joint procedures with the industry will allow for effective and efficient screening of the high volume of cargo transported daily to the US.”

The US agencies emphasize that ACAS applies to shipments from all countries, including TSA National Cargo Security Program participants. CPB plans to levy penalties against organizations that violate the new requirements. But the agency pledges to take a “common-sense” approach that includes providing amnesty for unintentional violations during the first 12 months of the mandatory program.

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com