Mobility and Transport


Air cargo and mail

Air cargo and mail

The European Union has a robust and well-established air cargo and mail security regime wherein all cargo and mail must be physically screened or come from a secure supply chain before being loaded onto an aircraft. Purpose is to ensure the absence of articles that could be used to commit an act of unlawful interference, such as explosive devices.

In a secure supply chain individual members perform security controls and protect secured consignments from unlawful interference throughout their journey. Potential actors in the secure supply chain are account consignors or known consignors which originate cargo or mail and regulated agents that screen and/or forward cargo or mail to air carriers, which are the final node. Known and account consignors are typically manufacturers of the cargo. Entities that may be approved as regulated agent include air carriers, handling agents and freight forwarders. Physical screening may only be carried out by a regulated agent.

In the EU, all actors in the secure supply chain need to be approved by the aviation security authority (appropriate authority) of an EU Member State, with the exception of account consignors which are designated by an approved regulated agent. Before an actor may be approved or designated, it needs to comply with a well-defined set of security requirements to ensure the secure handling and protection of air cargo and mail.

The secure supply chain ensures a high degree of security, while at the same time facilitates trade through avoiding duplication of controls and avoiding a concentration of controls at the airports. The EU secure supply chain regime applies throughout the territory of the EU and its associated partners Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, with the effect that once a consignments is secured it may travel without further controls within this area or to other countries.

Air cargo and mail coming from non-EU countries

In October 2010, two improvised explosive devices (homemade bombs) were transported as air cargo consignments and were intercepted at airports in the Middle-East and Europe before they could do any harm. These incidents demonstrated the importance of aviation security measures in respect of cargo and mail and triggered the implementation of higher levels of security in respect of EU bound cargo and mail.

Until February 2012, air cargo and mail security requirements were only applicable for air cargo and mail being loaded onto aircraft at airports located in the EU. Since 1 February 2012, additional rules require air carriers carrying cargo and mail into the EU from non-EU airports to ensure security standards prior to loading. Since 1 July 2014, further rules  apply. These rules are laid down in EU regulations . They apply to individual air carriers, not to foreign states.

Mutual recognition of the EU and U.S. air cargo security regime

Since 1 June 2012, the EU and the United States (U.S.) recognise each other's air cargo security regime, which positively affects the speed and efficiency of transatlantic cargo operations to the benefit of shippers and customers. Air carriers transporting cargo from EU airports to the U.S. no longer need to apply additional U.S. measures as they comply with the EU requirements. Also, cargo or mail shipments from the U.S. to the EU may transfer at EU airports to further destinations without additional controls. This recognition will substantially cut cargo operators' costs and save time.

Previously, air cargo flown into the U.S. had to be submitted to controls defined in security programmes issued by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This did not take into consideration the extensive controls already applied at EU airports and therefore duplicated controls.