Humans first – Addressing the Challenges Aviation Screeners Face at the 34th ICAO Aviation Security Panel

Nicholas Ratledge by Nicholas Ratledge | Aug 10, 2023

Every year, Airports Council International (ACI) World actively takes part in the ICAO Aviation Security Panel, where important discussions with various countries are held to improve aviation security globally across 193 Member States. ACI’s contributions are crucial in dealing with emerging challenges and improving security measures in the global aviation industry, while advocating for risk-based approaches, rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach to airport security measures.

Billy Shallow, ACI World’s Senior Director, Security, Technology and Innovation, right, Nicholas Ratledge, Senior Manager Security, Safety and Operations at ACI World, centre, and Victoire Jarcin, Assistant Manager, Airport Operations at the 34th ICAO Security Panel, May-June 2023, Montreal.

Prioritizing Mental Health in Civil Aviation

As the world recovers from the impact of COVID-19, it has become evident that mental health risks in the workforce are on the rise, and the aviation industry is no exception. ACI recognizes the importance of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce and supporting mental health. The well-being of aviation professionals is vital for maintaining safe, secure, and efficient operations. ACI’s paper addressing this concern resonated strongly with panel members who unanimously supported the ongoing and increased need to support industry workers in areas of mental health, human factors, and performance while working collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders.

Advancements in Security Technology: Automated Prohibited Item Detection Systems (APIDS)

At the 32nd AVSEC Panel, ACI presented new proposals to ICAO to accelerate innovation in aviation security. These proposals prompted discussion and received widespread support. They served as a reminder to States to develop the necessary means to rapidly deploy new technology that improves security, efficiency, and the customer experience while addressing long-standing regulations with a more agile methodology.

This year, ACI presented an upcoming and trialled technological innovation called Automated Prohibited Item Detection Systems (APIDS). These algorithms have been trialled, deployed, and permitted in certain States. They have proven to be effective in enhancing airport security and significantly reducing the burdensome requirements on the screeners who must detect an ever-growing list of prohibited items, despite evolving threats. With overwhelming support from participating States, the panel agreed that although still in its early stages, these technologies should be considered by States for improved aviation security. This global collaboration will revolutionize security standards at airports worldwide.

Guidance Material for Managing Disruptions at Airports

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with climate initiatives, has led to increased disruptions caused by activism at airports, creating potential security threats and risks. In 2021, ACI presented a Working Paper addressing this issue and was requested to provide additional guidance for States to collaborate effectively with airports. Building upon the ACI World Advisory Bulletin on Airport Disruptions , the provided material helped States assist airport operators by offering various mitigation strategies. Following discussions at the ICAO Working Group on Guidance Material (WGGM), the panel accepted the guidance for inclusion in the ICAO Aviation Security Manual. This significant step will assist airports in managing disruptions efficiently and ensuring smooth operations, regardless of external challenges.

ACI World Advisory Bulletin on Airport Disruptions
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SeMS, Working Group on Threat and Risk, and Aerodrome Certification

ACI played a key role in addressing other important topics during the discussions. An industry partner presented a working paper advocating for the mandating of Security Management Systems (SeMS) in ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). ACI, together with Member States, successfully argued against this inclusion, highlighting that sufficient guidance already exists and that the decision to adopt SeMS should be based on the specific needs of affected entities. The panel also discussed the involvement of industry representatives in the Working Group Threat and Risk (WGTR). ACI emphasized the value of industry membership by showcasing operational expertise and frontline intelligence gathering. Although the panel wished to maintain the current ad-hoc basis for industry participation, ACI’s perspective was recognized for the ongoing collaborative value that the industry brings.

Lastly, ACI demonstrated understanding and empathy towards the challenges presented in a working paper regarding the combination of aerodrome certification and aviation security processes for aerodromes to receive a certificate. The panel agreed with ACI’s position and expressed a willingness to engage with the ICAO Aerodrome Design and Operations Panel (ADOP) for further discussions.

The work accomplished through active participation at the Panel successfully advocates for risk-based approaches to airport security, helping member airports move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. By addressing emerging challenges and promoting advancements in security technology, ACI advocates for enhanced security measures while improving efficiency and the customer experience.  With this, members can be empowered to achieve higher standards of aviation security, operational excellence, and resilience in an ever-evolving global landscape.

Nicholas Ratledge

Nicholas Ratledge

Senior Manager, Security, Safety, and Operations at Airports Council International (ACI) World
Nicholas Ratledge joined ACI World in March 2015. As Senior Manager, Security, Safety, and Operations at Airports Council International he is responsible for providing guidance and best practice with airport security standards and recommended best practices.
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