ETRC caught in the grip f duty-free stalemate

27 August, 2008
Page 18 
Europe's duty-free industry is struggling to persuade governments worldwide to apply to the EU for a formal and mutual recognition of aviation security standards.

This was the stark message at a workshop held at the TFWA exhibition in Cannes last month.

The lack of a uniform security protocol for the carrying of liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs) in transit poses a threat to duty-free sales, claims the European Travel Retail Council. And, to compound the situation, ETRC's campaign also faces a funding shortfall.

The workshop was told that this "stumbling block" was causing passengers transferring in the EU from flights originating at non-EU countries to have their liquid duty-free goods confiscated.

Goods were being taken even if they were in transparent, tamper-proof bags.

ETRC president Frank O'Connell said the campaign to find workable solutions for duty-free sales while these security restrictions were in place was now at a crucial point.

"Great strides have been made in new legislation which allows liquid goods from authorised countries to be allowed into Europe. The supply chain for tax-free luxury goods in the airport retailing environment is an inherently secure business which has given us credibility with the authorities," said O'Connell. "However, we are in danger of losing this credibility if more countries do not take up this opportunity and make an application [to the EU]."

O'Connell also warned of a funding shortfall. "A huge number of companies have contributed nothing , despite the fact that it affects us all. We only have money to keep us going for two months - we need more donations."

It was revealed at the workshop that authorities recognise the need to adopt scanning equipment capable of detecting and identifying potentially explosive substances in just two to three seconds.

But the reality is, O'Connell warned, that it will be two to three years before such equipment is available and installed at security check points on a global front.

O'Connell said that in the meantime it was essential that as many countries as possible made a formal application to the EU. But just five nations in the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) have applied - Australia, Argentina, Singapore, Croatia and Dubai.

Comments by workshop attendees reveal that the LAG issue is a low diplomatic priority for most countries.

And in some cases, most notably South Africa and Japan, deals are unlikely to be struck as neither country recognises that the EU is a single authority that can represent all 2 7 member states.

Another pressing concern is the lack of a reciprocal agreement with the US Transport Security Administration . At present anyone transferring in the US on a flight from South America will have duty-free liquor confiscated. This is not the case for transfer passengers on US-originating flights switching planes at South American airports.

In Asia, the transfer issue only applies within three countries: India, Japan and Australia.

Comment

Dominic Roskrow

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