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ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, reflects on some pioneering security initiatives, industry challenges and the need for a more collaborative approach to airport security.

Maintaining the safety and security of the travelling public is ACI’s top priority and the changing variables of threat to aviation, growing passenger numbers and limitations on resources calls for a paradigm shift towards a genuinely risk managed approach, and a collaborative effort between all stakeholders. 

ACI maintains that each layer of security should be based on a risk and vulnerability assessment for a particular country and airport, where factors such as location, physical infrastructure and passenger and airline demographics are taken into account. 

We recently submitted a working paper supporting a risk-based approach to security in the public areas of airports at the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which took place during Civil Aviation Week in Montréal. 

The working paper also highlighted the importance of collaboration between regulators, intelligence agencies and airports, and identified the need for guidance materials that identify a range of flexible options for measures to enhance security as the threat situation dictates.

Equally important is a strong security culture. Vigilance and security awareness provide one of the greatest defences; all staff should have the required knowledge to detect, take note and report suspicious behaviour and/or items. 

Implementing a service culture with greater customer-centric interaction can also provide greater opportunities for passenger behaviour analysis. ACI’s Global Training offers a range of security courses including Baggage Screening, Behavioural Analysis and Security and Facilitation in order to provide airports with relevant and up-to-date knowledge to ensure compliance with current regulations. 

To assist airports in their ability to implement the most appropriate, effective and efficient security measures, ACI World has recently completed the first pilot of its Airport Excellence in Security programme (APEX) and hopes to be able to launch the programme in full early next year. 

This is a voluntary capacity building programme that enables airports to benefit from the experience of other security experts through a peer review process.  

The joint ACI/International Air Transport Association (IATA) Smart Security Programme is an excellent example of how collaboration between governments and industry stakeholders can benefit all parties. 

The programme’s goal is to strengthen aviation security while increasing operational efficiency and improving passenger experience. 

Smart Security solutions already being implemented include: Full body scanners that address metallic and non-metallic threats in a single process; advanced X-ray equipment; Centralised Image Processing (CIP) for remote cabin baggage screening; and, innovative lane design to increase passenger throughput. 

An important part of the programme is sharing information gained from trials and lessons learned for the benefit of airports the world over. Comprehensive guidance material is already available on many elements, and regional workshops will be held over the coming months. 

Cybersecurity is also high on ACI’s agenda. We are working at the global level through an Industry High Level Group advocating better awareness, information sharing, strong guiding principles and consistent use of standards. 

Specifically for airports, ACI recently launched the Airport IT Security Benchmarking Tool, offering airports the possibility to benchmark and improve their level of IT security protection, based on the most recent ISO security standard. 

All of the layers of security are valid, but they need to be applied globally and consistently. Not all measures are appropriate in all locations, especially when it comes to expensive technologies. 

However, a solid risk management approach, robust security culture, good training and improved technology is needed everywhere to ensure the security of the travelling public. 

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