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Mercury Companies Contract with Canine Teams for Cargo Screening

For the first time ever, Homeland Security and TSA will allow private party canine groups to start screening air cargo. With the help of these canine teams, cargo handling companies like Mercury Air Cargo and HPL-Apollo will greatly improve the efficiencies of their handling operations.

While screening cargo is nothing new – the 9/11 Commission recommended that 100% of everything that travels on a passenger aircraft within the United States must be screened - Recent changes to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) security standards removes the distinction between passenger and cargo operations. This means that all cargo – whether it be passenger or air freight – needs to be screened for explosives.

However, “with the technologies that exist today, we could never achieve that for a freighter,” said John Peery, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at Mercury Air Cargo.

“A hundred tons coming through, and everything has to be screened to the piece level. It wouldn't be achievable,” he said.

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As a result, Homeland Security and the TSA have established the Third-Party Canine Screening (3KP9) program to allow private sector canine companies to provide TSA-certified, cargo screening canine teams to assist in meeting the new requirements.

Mercury Air Cargo and HPL-Apollo have partnered with Global K9 Protection Group to conduct the screening of the cargo. The K9 teams there are made up of military veterans, and they have extensive experience in identifying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan, so they are well-versed in handling explosives, Peery said.

“We're very happy that they are partnering with Mercury in San Francisco and Los Angeles to provide services for compliance with the TSA rules and regulations,” Peery said.

“What this will do for us is dramatically reduce the amount of double and triple handling,” he said.  

He gave the example of e-commerce, a worldwide, multibillion dollar industry that grows bigger each year, but the normal way of shipping those products is in large plastic bags filled with a variety of different items. “We can’t screen it as one piece - we've got to break it down and take each individual piece out and screen it,” Peery said.

“The dogs will allow us to screen it at the skid level - hundreds of pieces - and avoid this double, triple and sometimes-quadruple handling,” he said.

“They can check huge amounts of cargo in a very short period of time which is going to be very efficient for us, allow us to improve our overall capacity of the building, and diminish process times before export,” Peery said.

The plan is to deploy the canine teams to the cargo facilities by December 15th- hopefully.

“We are confident this will be a successful enterprise for both the canine companies that are in the business and the air carriers, and end users,” he said.

“We’re very excited about the chance to utilize canines for screening,” Peery said.