The Hong Kong government has announced changes to the implementation schedule of stricter cargo screening requirements.
The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) said it is adjusting the transitional arrangement — which will require the screening of 25% of all non-known consignee shipments — to January 2020 from the original plan to start the rollout by November 2019.
Citing the current economic downturn in Hong Kong, CAD said the move would allow the air cargo industry more time to cope with the enhanced security screening requirements "amidst the economic challenges the industry is facing."
New rollout to start January 2020
"The Government fully appreciates the industry’s strong demand to boost the export air cargo throughput towards the end of this year, especially noting the sharp decline in air cargo throughput in the first half of 2019," CAD said in a statement.
"In light of the latest situation of the Hong Kong economy of which the air cargo industry plays a significant role, and in view of recent feedback received from the industry ... the adjusted transitional arrangement would take effect from January 2020, instead of November 2019 as originally planned," it added.
Despite the push back, CAD called on the industry to prepare for the gradual increase in cargo screening percentage to maintain a smooth implementation of the enhanced air cargo security policy.
The tighter screening program is part of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) mandate for 100% of non-known consignee cargo to be screened by June 20, 2021.
Hong Kong earlier decided to implement a gradual approach to meeting the ICAO requirement in order to give the air cargo industry plenty of time to prepare.
Full implementation by March 2021
Under the new schedule released by CAD, following the January 2020 implementation of screening for 25%, in May, 40% of cargo non-known consignee cargo will need to be screened and it will be increased to 70% in September 2020 until pushed to 100% screening by March 2021.
"To help the air cargo industry gradually gear up for the full implementation of the ICAO new policy direction, the Government has been supporting and facilitating the air cargo industry in their preparation for the enhanced screening requirements," CAD said.
It noted that according to the arrangement, starting November 2019, the Regulated Agents (RAs) are required to gradually increase the screening percentage of known cargoes consigned by existing known/account consignors, which have not been validated by CAD to 100% in phases before the deadline imposed by ICAO.
Hong Kong-based U-Freight became one of the first freight forwarders to get one of its logistics hubs in Hong Kong certified by the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (CAD) as a Regulated Air Cargo Screening Facility (RACSF) allowing it to offer off-airport screening.