Wednesday, September 8, 2010

India Considers Dog-Sniffing Cargo Screening Option

Aviation Week First
By Neelam Mathews
NEW DELHI

A lack of X-ray machines for cargo screening at India’s major airports, causing delays of up to two days, is making operators turn toward a cost-effective, less time-consuming screening technique that does not use X-ray machines.

While the government has yet to clear the technique, called RASCargO, an airline official told AviationWeek the reduction in time and reliability of the proven system would help clear back logs. Delhi International Airport, for example, only has eight cargo X-ray machines, but at least 20 more are needed, says an official.

The Bureau of Civil Aviation’s Security Director General was unavailable for comment.

The technique that has been researched includes vapor samples collected by sucking air from cargo trucks or pallets through a specially designed filter placed in individual containers in an analysis room. Each filter is placed on a stand that holds six filters as a trained dog sniffs each filter. The dogs are trained to detect minute traces of explosive vapor, drugs and contraband. All samples are analysed separately by two dogs, and any positive indications are resolved using alarm resolution protocols issued by the regulators.

The technique is owned by a subsidiary of ICTS Europe and is approved for air cargo screening in Great Britain and France.

The technique has a greater than 90% detection rate, screens all cargo types including those difficult to screen using X-ray machines—dense, cluttered, outsized and high-water-content cargo—is clean, and does not require breaking into the cargo container. In France, the technique is approved for screening whole trucks of cargo to be shipped by air, says Shaike Rozanski, MD of ICTS, U.K.

“India is a new market with big potential. We want to work with local companies ... Airlines and airports want cheaper options. They cannot compromise on security and terrorists are getting more sophisticated. Conventional X-rays do not give full security. Machines are operated by humans and there are limitations,” says Rozanski.

“Each ton of cargo costs around $128 in India to X-ray. With RASCargO, it will be easily 50% less,” says an official.

The company is in discussions with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which has already tested the technique a few times and is in the process of adopting it as an option.

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