The European Union is currently developing preliminary regulations which will require air cargo service providers to forward advance shipment data to member state customs organizations for threat analysis.

EU PRECISE is a fact-finding exercise that has studied what data needs to be submitted in advance, when and by whom. A study was recently conducted by the customs administrations of eight EU member states, the major air cargo trade associations and eight large freight forwarders to develop and refine potential regulations.

The program is similar to Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) in the United States. ACAS, also known as the US Importer Security Filing or ISF for Air, is an ongoing pilot program working in cooperation with 39 airlines and will form the basis for mandating the advance submission of air cargo data for inbound flights.

It is anticipated that the EU will be seeking eight data elements, referred to as 7+1, on all air cargo shipments prior to loading. There will be seven elements of raw data--name and address of consignor, name and address of consignee, a description of the goods, a piece count and shipment weight--plus a shipment identifier and the house airway bill (HAWB) number.

The onus of providing that information to customs organizations is expected to fall primarily on air freight forwarders and secondarily on carriers. The preliminary study determined that freight forwarders are the parties who have access to much of the required data elements at an earlier point in the shipment cycle, upon completion of the HAWB.

Customs organizations want as much pre-loading data in one single message to conduct a first layer of security risk analysis. But the EU study recognized that some information would need to be updated. The description of goods, for example, could change between the time of booking and when the freight is physically checked-in. Likewise, airlines would need to supplement the data with flight information.

One thing to watch for is how far before loading the filing of advance data would be required. The EU study examined intervals that ranged from eight hours to less than two hours. The study was inconclusive about a necessary and reasonable time frame, noting that the latest acceptance time for air freight varies among carriers.

Air forwarders and carriers are increasingly operating in a complex environment. One piece of good news out of the EU PRECISE is that it will be closely coordinated with ACAS. So, if you're up on ACAS you'll be ahead of the game when the EU begins its program.

PREloading Consignment Information for Secure Entry (EU PRECISE)