News From Air Cargo Industry
Sniffer Dogs Might Sniff Later
The use of canines for detecting explosives in air freight shipments at German airports, originally intended to commence 29 April latest, could face a delay. Various state authorities are quarreling about who is responsible for certifying the animals and their handlers.
Sniffer Dogs Might Sniff Later
Sniffer dogs are used at major European airports for detecting explosives in air freight shipments - but not in Germany, so far.
On Monday (April 15th) Germany’s civil aviation regulator Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA) delivered its formal opinion on the certification and future deployment of sniffer dogs for air freight to the Ministry of Transport, its ultimate authority. In their statement the LBA officials will demand full responsibility for the entire training and licensing process of explosive detection dogs. 

However, it is questionable if the regulating agency’s helm Joerg Mendel will get the support of his superiors since the Ministry of the Interior claims responsibility for the entire dog issue as well. 
The dispute regarding competencies and responsibilities whereby which state authority is ultimately masterminding the canine topic might delay the entire project, should the inter-administrative quarrel not be solved at once.  

Up to now, all dog and handler teams deployed at German airports for passenger luggage drug and explosive controls are acting under the command of the Federal Police or the country’s customs authorities, which are part of the Ministry of Interior (police) or Finance (customs). The posts for this specific task are assigned to these two ministries. But if the LBA should be in charge of certifying and deploying sniffer dogs for controlling air freight, these posts would have to shift to this authority, a perspective that is fiercely objected specifically by the Federal Police. 

In the German air freight industry bomb dogs have never been in use so far since the authorities have felt no need for implementing this security service in addition or parallel to x-raying shipments, physical controls and the scanning of goods.  Therefore, no official training and certification program for canines and their handlers existed until recently. However, in view of the upcoming new EU security regulations which might lead to major congestions at large cargo hubs such as Rhine-Main the officials made a u-turn and opted in favor of canine and handler teams. 

But instead of copying the basics from French, Dutch or British regulators, who have allowed cargo controls by explosive dogs since a long time, the German authorities insisted on shaping their own scheme from scratch. Hence, valuable time was lost since it takes at least half a year to get the teams of dogs and handlers operational. Despite the enormous time-constraints the entire canine issue was supposed to be solved no later than March 25, when the Brussels’ set tougher security regulations were originally supposed to come into effect. But even today, after the postponement of the rules till 29 April, the sniffer dog topic remains still unsolved by the German authorities. Instead of initiating a quick solution to prevent air freight from getting stuck at airports due to limited means of technical controls, they seem to prefer wrangling over competency questions. 

In a recent interview with Lufthansa Cargo’s customer magazine ‘Planet’ LBA’s boss Joerg Mendel assured a workable canine solution as of April 29, latest. “We rely on his statement since using dogs as complementary tool for controlling hidden explosives in shipments would really ease our situation in view of April 29th,” states LH Cargo’s head of communication, Matthias Eberle. The carrier intends collaborating with the trained dog squadron of Frankfurt’s airport operator Fraport who are able to immediately deploy twelve dog-handler teams for controlling cargo if finally admitted by the authorities.  

A number of questions addressed to regulator LBA last Thursday by CargoForwarder concerning the canine status remained unanswered so far. Therefore, it cannot be excluded that the dogs might not be ready for sniffing hidden bombs in air freight beginning 29 April.
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