Lack of screeners hampering cargo operations at smaller airports

On inspection by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), the Coimbatore Airport, which has already been facing issues in cargo processing, was told to halt their outbound cargo due to lack of certified screeners. Fortunately, the inbound cargo was allowed to be processed, however, considering safety and security reasons, all outbound cargo operations were ceased.

In absence of air cargo facilities, the machinery, textiles, spare parts and gold jewellery industries (among some others) are having to opt for other modes of transportation. According to a source, if the air cargo services out of Coimbatore are not restored, traders will face losses and their products will no longer remain competent in the market.

Speaking on the current issue, S Senthil Valavan (Airport Director, Coimbatore International Airport) said, “We have 12 vacancies, but the operation can begin only if one third of the strength is available. We need certified screeners to ensure that no banned items are allowed through air cargo.”

He also said that the issue of lack of screeners is not just a pain point for Coimbatore Airport, and outbound cargo is at a standstill at other AAI CLAS operated airports too. is not pertaining to Coimbatore airport only. On the other hand, AAI CLAS has released a recruitment notification to hire screeners for such airports.

The Coimbatore International Airport handled 61 tonnes of international cargo and 708 tonnes of cargo to destinations in the country in December. With no domestic outbound cargo services, it handled only 275 tonnes in January. Due to this, the Airport Authority of India Cargo Logistics Allied Services (AAI CLAS), the regulatory agency for cargo handling services in all airports, is losing around 13 lakh every month.

The BCAS had issued a mandate for cargo terminals at all airports to acquire Regulated Agent (RA) status. Considering that at a cargo terminal with RA status, there is a requirement of more manpower per machine, it is possible that being a public sector organisation, AAI CLAS is finding it difficult to recruit screeners for its airports. It may have been deemed correct on the part of AAI CLAS to halt cargo operations at such non-RA terminals to avoid any unfortunate circumstances.

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