South African air cargo security systems have received the nod from the European Union (EU) as well as the United States' Transport Security Administration (TSA).
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) director, Poppy Khoza, said the two affirmations place South Africa in a unique position, making the country the only one on the continent with such recognition and agreements in place.
"This essentially means that, following audits by the European Union and the United States, South Africa is acknowledged as one of the countries where the level of aviation security is regarded as robust and reliable. This will benefit air carriers operating between South Africa and the two regions," she said.
In the case of the US, the TSA carries out yearly assessments of South Africa's aviation security regime with the last audit conducted in June 2014.
The results of the audit indicate that South Africa did not attract any findings or observation and in some instances, the standards were found to be higher than in previous years.
"The TSA audit comes after almost a year since the SACAA and the TSA concluded a recognition agreement on air cargo security programmes, thus acknowledging that South African systems are on par with the stringent requirements of the USA.
"This agreement also enhances air cargo security measures and initiatives between the two countries. Most significantly, the agreement enables quicker facilitation of goods between the two countries, and helps eradicate duplicative or redundant measures while still ensuring the highest levels of security that both the TSA and the SACAA require," she said.
The EU recognition means that South Africa has been included in the list of third countries where air carriers are exempted from the application of the ACC3 (Air cargo and mail carrier operation into the EU from a third country airport) regime of which the requirements are viewed as stringent to operators from countries outside the EU.
In terms of the ACC3 process, carriers wishing to carry cargo into the EU have to request an ACC3 status, and this process requires rigorous screening of air cargo or the existence of a properly functioning and secure air cargo system.
As from July this year, cargo operators flying to the EU destinations must therefore either hold a valid EU validation report, proving that they have adequate security measures in place, or in the absence of such assurance, cargo operators will have to use the services of EU validators to pronounce their cargo as secured.
However, Khoza said the services of EU validators are not free and come at a cost to air carriers. It further acknowledges that security measures applied in South Africa and the EU are equivalent.
"This recognition by the EU is a significant milestone for the country and South African carriers, as this means that they can now benefit from an exemption from the ACC3 regime, provided that the level of risk remains similarly low, commensurate with a robust oversight system being in place," she said.