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Airfreight risk 'grading' announced

Countries sending airfreight to the UK will be "graded" according to risk, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said.

Rules which allowed some freight not to be rescreened if it was merely passing through the UK were being amended, he added.

Mr Hammond was speaking after meeting representatives of airlines, airports and parcel companies to discuss security in the wake of last week's Yemeni-originating air cargo bomb plot.

Mr Hammond said measures for dealing with freight leaving the UK were "pretty robust" although ways of increasing outgoing freight security would be looked at, adding: "There is no doubt in my mind that the greater area of weakness is in inbound cargo to the UK from airports where standards are variable."

He said in an ideal world there would be global agreement on airfreight security. As it was, the major airfreight countries would work together.

Outlining a freight risk "league table", Mr Hammond said: "We shall be categorising countries of origin (for freight) according to layers of risk."

Freight from Yemen and Somalia has been banned since last week's incident and Mr Hammond said these two countries would be at the high-risk end of the categorised countries.

After the meeting with Mr Hammond, Mike Arrive, chief executive of Bar UK (the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK), said: "We had a good meeting. I think passengers should be assured that measures being introduced should have only a limited effect on them."

Terry Morgan, technical standards chief for airport operator BAA, was among those who was also at the meeting. He said: "We learned that there was quite a lot of work going with cargo and freight-forwarding companies on security. There was a sense that the aviation industry was co-operating with the Government to make sure safety standards were adequate."

One of the explosive devices in last week's incident was on board a Chicago-bound UPS courier aircraft which ended up at East Midlands Airport in the UK. The other was being transported by FedEx to Chicago and was located and identified in Dubai. Both explosive devices originated in Yemen and are thought to have been made and dispatched by al Qaida. And on Thursday, French interior minister Brice Hortefeux said one of the two devices was defused just 17 minutes before it was set to explode.


From Belfast Telegraph