UN body agrees to extend airport and aviation security – Felix von Geyer
Airports will soon look to undertake more security checks on cargo, mail and non-passengers such as airport employees in a bid to eliminate security threats notably from terrorism.
At a conference of the UN body the International Civil Aviation Organization at its Montreal headquarters, members were unanimous in their commitment to extend security arrangements on Wednesday, the day after the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre that killed over four thousand people.
Delegates expressed their condolences also to the United States and the family of the victims of the US Embassy in Benghazi where Ambassador Chris Stevens and two of his staff were killed by Libyan rioters, many of whom have been described by media reports as former rebels against the late Colonel Gadafi’s regime. The attack on the embassy is alleged to have been in protest against a US television documentary on the Prophet Mohammed that many Muslims have called blasphemous.
The European Union called for stronger rules for air cargo screening throughout the supply chain but insisted this will not need to add further layers of security to enhance the process.
In fact one-stop security would provide lower costs and combined with a risk-based approach and capacity-building to enhance, for example, developing country capacity to undertake efficient and cost-effective security screening were prescribed as a good model for states to adopt in assisting each other.
However, security audits, information disclosure and compliance procedures are necessary, stated the EU delegation who called for ICAO to take leadership over the issue.
The US Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitana called for more transparency in ICAO’s universal security audit programme””while respecting sovereignty,”she said.
Napolitana stated that mail security and cargo required more attention and security measures should also enable items to be transported more rapidly.
However, where many ICAO members were content for ICAO to move forward and agree these enhanced security measures by 2014, Napolitana called for ICAO to address these issues at the forthcoming two-week long ICAO Council meeting scheduled for the end of October. “We need collaborative agreement and actions now, not wait until 2014,” she said.
Furthermore, ICAO should take the lead in defining the next generation of travel documents such as travel cards for international civil aviation.
Later in the afternoon, ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin acknowledged interventions from the floor and called for non-passengers to be screened, known as the ïnsider threat”where airport employees could also be infiltrated by terrorist organizations and subsequently pose a threat to aviation and passenger security.
To some, the issue of screening is more of a diplomatic process rather than a logistical difficulty. Integrated technology solutions exist making efficient screening accessible and possible as well as universal. Security audits would then clarify the efficiency of personnel clearance, verify the number of audits as well as the quality and compliance procedures when suspicious items or people were encountered.
In addition, enhanced training of airport security personnel in risk-based approaches and forensic techniques for screening terrorist behaviour would also enhance security.
Public disclosure of this information would not be necessary said one ICAO spokesperson, indicating that it is preferred that prescribed security measures remain unknown to terrorists or other persons who may seek to circumscribe airport security measures.