Aramex, the Dubai courier company, is in talks with US and Middle East officials over permanent security measures after the recent scare over parcel bombs sent from Yemen.
The company has stopped shipments from Yemen and installed more stringent measures after the attempted attacks.
This could lead to a permanent tightening of security on freight services, said Fadi Ghandour, the founder and chief executive of Aramex.
“We want to put in the measures to make sure that business continues while safety is not jeopardised,” Mr Ghandour said.
“We have always been in discussion with … American regulators on the security issue. We are in continuous discussion, we are completely co-operative. The whole industry is co-operative.”
Mr Ghandour said Aramex was involved in discussions with the US transport security administration, and with customs officials in the Middle East.
“In every country we have that discussion as an industry and not a company,” he added.
Two bombs hidden in modified toner cartridges for printers were intercepted last week on cargo planes in the UK and Dubai.
Al Qa’eda’s Yemeni arm, al Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is believed to be behind the attempted bombings. Courier companies such as United Parcel Service,FedEx and TNT are among companies that have temporarily suspended shipments from the Arab nation.
Mr Ghandour said Aramex stopped shipments from Yemen shortly after the attempted bombings.
“We stopped accepting any business, packages or freight, out of Yemen three days ago,” he said. “We’ve put in stringent security measures across the company. We’re just much more diligent and on alert. We’re always on alert since 9/11, but we are doubly on alert now so we can make sure we can take care of our clients, take care of the safety of the people that are on the planes.”
Mr Ghandour said the new security measures include “bringing new equipment [and] checking unidentified shippers”.
He said Aramex had not had any specific security incidents or stopped shipments. The company is “making sure that every package gets opened [for] people who walk into the office and are sending non-documented shipments, who are going to be scrutinised much more carefully”.
Revenues from Yemen are “insignificant” and the suspension of its shipments is unlikely to have a severe effect on Aramex profits, said Mr Ghandour. “I don’t think it will hit Aramex’s bottom line. Yemen is an insignificant part of our market,” he said. News of the bombing attempt has prompted some security specialists to doubt the reliability of cargo screening in some developing countries.
“The risk is what happens before that package gets into the hands of UPS or FedEx,” Walter Beadling, a managing partner of Cargo Security Alliance in the US, told Bloomberg. “It’s still the Wild West in some of these places.” Mr Ghandour said the insinuation that security in the Middle East was to blame was “ridiculous”.
“Whoever made that comment doesn’t know,” he said. “Just go out to the airport to see how secure the airport is.
“You can’t just throw comments around. It’s very secure. It’s not as if there were so many incidents happening [in the region].”
Airports and airlines are stepping up security after last week’s failed bid to ship two packages laden with explosives through courier companies, prompting an increase in the cost of doing business for transport companies. Dilker CP, the Abu Dhabi business development manager of Expolanka Freight, said these measures include banning shipments of printer cartridges similar to the ones used in the failed bombing attempt and instituting “double-screenings” of cargo. British Airways this week has banned all shipments of ink and toner cartridges heavier than 500 grams to any airport in the UK except by prior approval, he said.
The costs of shipping freight from the US to the UAE and other GCC states with Etihad Airways have risen with the inclusion of a fee of 10 cents a kilo to cover the costs of increased screenings with scanning machines. “Before it was strict but now it is even more so, especially at Abu Dhabi airport,” he said. “There is no compromise on safety.”