Shippers of out-of-gauge air cargo may need to re-route it from UK airports to continental Europe after the Department for Transport last week suddenly banned the use of sniffer dogs.
Following upgraded security requirements on explosives, the DfT ordered tests on dogs used via the REST (Remote Explosive Scent Tracing) scheme. Unhappy with the results, it issued notice last Thursday of an immediate ban on using the dogs.
It advised in a confidential advisory: “If cargo cannot be screened to the required standard using any other appropriate method…such cargo cannot be flown in or from the UK. It may be shipped by sea or it may be sent by road to another EU state for screening using dogs: other EU states retain the capability to screen consignments using dogs.”
Affected players indicate that this could see significant amounts of cargo trucked to France and elsewhere. Airworld, the largest dog airfreight security company in the UK, has already announced redundancies and retired 12 dogs.
“It’s a huge problem for UK PLC,” said a spokesman. “Unless freight can be cleared by other means, all of this freight will be lost to Europe – and it’s a considerable amount.”
Industry players questioned why dogs can still be used in other EU countries, but the UK is thought to have higher standards. The DfT advisory said: “Given the level of threat in the UK, we cannot allow the continuing use of EDDs [explosive detecting dogs] when we are not confident that it is being used in an effective way.”
The ban is expected to be temporary, but companies have had no indication of when it may be lifted as the CAA is “stalling” over the issue.