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Changes to US-bound air cargo screening requirements - FAQs

What changes are being made to US-bound air cargo screening requirements?

Since 1 July 2017, all US-bound air cargo exports have been required to be examined at piece level or originate from a Known Consignor. These requirements have been imposed on airlines by the US Government. The Australian Government is working with Australian businesses to help them comply with these US requirements.

What does piece level mean?

Piece-level means that each individual box, carton or other item in a shipment is examined by an X-ray machine or metal detector, depending on the nature of the item being examined, before it is loaded onto an aircraft.

How does piece-level screening differ from current requirements?

Cargo is often consolidated on a pallet, for example, boxes stacked and wrapped in plastic. Except in specific circumstances such as when cargo originates from a Known Consignor, cargo now needs to be unpacked, contents screened at piece level and repacked. This will take additional time and cost more.

Businesses can avoid this time and cost by becoming a Known Consignor or by having their cargo screened at piece level through an approved screening agent.

How can exporters comply with the new US requirements?

Businesses exporting to the US by air have two options to meet the new US requirements:

  • Using an Australian Government-approved freight agent who can examine US-bound air cargo. A list of these agents is online.
  • Being approved as a Known Consignor, which allows a business to secure air cargo at is point of origin in order to minimise potential delays and costs.

How long does it take to become a Known Consignor?

You should allow at least working 60 days for this process. Entry into the Known Consignor Scheme requires:

  • the lodgement of an Expression of Interest
  • a detailed application
  • validation through on-site inspection to ensure the business applying is meeting international best-practice security measures and can secure their export air cargo from where it originates
  • application for an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC), this takes time  which should be factored into the process of becoming a Known Consignor
  • approval by the Department of Home Affairs.

How can freight forwarders comply with the new US requirements?

Freight forwarders will need to arrange to examine all US-bound air cargo at piece level if their customer is not a Known Consignor.

Who will need an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) under the new US requirements?

Approval as a Known Consignor involves a range of security measures, including background checking of relevant employees to ensure they are of suitable character. This background check is required for the issue of an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC). 

How does the Known Consignor program relate to the Customs Trusted Trader program?

The Known Consignor program is separate to the Australian Trusted Trader Program, which is a voluntary import/export facilitation initiative for sea and air cargo that rewards accredited businesses with a secure supply chain and compliant trade practices with a range of trade facilitation benefits. The Known Consignor program is focused on the security of air cargo only.

Will the changes affect processing times at airports?

The new US Government piece-level screening requirements may increase processing time at airports for US bound air cargo. Businesses should consider becoming a Known Consignor to streamline the handling of their air cargo at airports in order to save time and money