East Boston-based company sets high standards for cargo screening

The recent bomb plot foiled by U.S., British and Saudi authorities that targeted American Cargo planes from Yemen bound for the U.S. has focused attention on the extra security needed for cargo traveling in and out of America.

It’s something that many law makers have pushed for as a necessary addition to aviation security and but an East Boston based freight forwarding company has become one of only five private companies in the nation screening cargo that travels on passenger flights.

In February 2009, East Boston based Horizon Air Services on McClellan Highway received approval from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to use dual technologies of x-ray with onscreen resolution and Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) to screen cargo that passes through their facility and then onto commercial aircraft. While it is one of five companies that now screens cargo it is the only independent, validated entity in the country to have this dual technology.

The advantage of this technology is that it moves cargo faster and there is less need to do physical searches and disturb the cargo being shipped. The cargo comes into a tightly secured, fenced in area, which can only be accessed by authorized personnel. Cameras record all activity both inside the secure area and outside as the cargo is entering and exiting the building. Eighty percent of the cargo fits through the x-ray machine while the remaining 20 percent is subject to ETD. The onscreen resolution is color-coded and the easy-to-use detection system makes it possible to identify any suspicious materials quickly and easily.

“We currently screen approximately 500,000 pounds of cargo per month and we expect that to significantly increase,” said Horizon V.P. Michael Mercuri. “Horizon screens only a portion of the 50 percent mandated screened cargo at Logan, but 100 percent of the cargo it receives. And as the August 2010 deadline for 100 percent cargo screening approaches, we would expect the volume of cargo entering our facility to significantly increase.”

Recently, joined Massport officials on a tour of Horizon’s facility and the new cargo screening devices.

“It’s something we’ve talked about as a nation for some time now we see one company putting it to use,” said U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano when Horizon began screening cargo. “I’m sure there are still some kinks and other issues to work out but it a step forward in improving passenger safety on commercial flights.”

Back in 2009 Massport’s Director of Corporate Security Dennis Treece said his agency supports efforts to conduct cargo screening off airport because it provides a more efficient and effective screening process.

“Flights are never delayed because of something suspicious in a cargo shipment. All those problems are resolved before the shipments arrive at the airport, already screened and ready to load,” said Treece.

Mercuri said Horizon was delighted to have the support of Capuano and executives from Massport and the TSA especially in light of the recent bomb plot.

“As a Massachusetts company, we are proud to be the first third-party, validated screening facility in our state,” said Mercuri. “With our state-of-the-art dual detection technology, we are certain that the TSA’s goal of screening 100 percent of cargo carried on passenger flights is achievable.”

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