Transport Canada has recommended a system where the shippers will be allowed to screen cargo before it reaches the airport.
The agency expects the move to help airports deal with security gaps that could render airlines vulnerable to a terrorist attack.
Transport Canada has said this initiative would bring up the standard of air cargo screening and also lead to a net benefit of $202m in the next ten years for Canadian citizens, reported The Canadian Press.
In Canada, about half of all cargo that moves by air is carried on passenger flights — totalling more than 400 million kilograms annually.
In a regulatory plan, quietly published Saturday, the government says relying on carriers to screen all cargo for explosive devices would be “slow and impractical” and result in bottlenecks, delays and additional costs.
“Shippers need to be given the authority to screen their own goods,” the proposal says.
“In order to do so, there must be a regulatory framework and program in place for the maintenance and enforcement of air cargo security that international partners will recognize.”
The NDP and Liberal transport critics say that while there is a role for industry in air cargo security, the government must ensure proper oversight and accountability.
In his 2010 report on the Air India terrorist bombing, former Supreme Court justice John Major recommended urgent introduction of comprehensive air cargo examination.
Transport Canada has been consulting and drafting plans for years, mindful of threats like the October 2010 episode in which explosive devices were found in air cargo headed to the United States from Yemen.
“Civil aviation remains a favoured target of terrorist attacks,” says the newly published plan.
“Airports, aircraft and passengers offer the kind of high-profile targets that terrorists seek, and damage to a nation’s civil aviation sector can cripple a nation’s economy and sense of security.”
The planned amendments would allow shippers, cargo companies, warehouse operators and trucking firms to take part in the program on a voluntary basis. Participation would require them to invest in secure facilities, do personnel background checks, ensure a secure chain of custody for goods, and implement training, screening and record-keeping.
The costs of participating would be offset by the benefits of avoiding screening fees and delays, says Transport Canada.