Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation [GACA] has denied detecting any suspicious parcels arriving at its airports, explaining that this is due to the adoption of the “accredited shipper” system, which requires the inspection of both outgoing and incoming parcels. GACA pointed out that the directive sent to all Saudi airports and shipping companies, requiring them to be strict in implementing this system, was simply a reminder, and not an indication that any significant problems had recently occurred.
The adoption of this Saudi measure coincides with the arrival of suspicious packages that caused panic in British, US, and Dubai airports. On Friday 29th of October, two suspicious parcels, originally sent from Yemen, and addressed to locations in the United States, were discovered.
On the 2nd of November, a suspicious package exploded near the Russian Embassy in Athens. According to media sources close to the Chilean Ambassador for Greece, Carmen Ibanez, an explosive device also went off near the Chilean Embassy. A third parcel addressed to the Chilean Embassy was not found to contain any explosive device. The sources said that two people were arrested in Greece for their suspected involvement in these incidents.
In Saudi Arabia, the GACA official spokesman, Khalid al-Khubayri, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “accredited shipper” system is being implemented by all Saudi shipping agents and companies. He added that all the country’s airports have been provided with the necessary equipment to uncover any violations of this rule.
Regarding the decision to send a new directive to implement the accredited shipper system, which has effectively been in force for the past 10 years, Al-Khubayri agreed that the initiative has already been in place for the past few years, but “we added new instructions and re-emphasized that the agencies working with us should make sure that it is being strictly enforced.” He denied that several incidents had occurred at Saudi airports, when the initiative had not been implemented.
Al-Khubayri added: “The accredited shipper system meets the security requirements of civilian airports, especially as it complies with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.”
He pointed out that this system has been approved by Prince Sultan Bin-Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation, and Inspector General.
Meanwhile, world airports are still experiencing a state of panic, and are on high security alert, after the discovery of suspicious parcels sent from Yemen and addressed to the United States. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described this situation as one of panic, caused by the “threat of potential terrorism.”
GACA’s official spokesmen pointed out that any shipping agency that does not implement the accredited shipper system, and abide by its criteria, will not be allowed to continue operating. He noted that this system has stringent requirements.
He added: “This system permits the inspection of all incoming and outgoing parcels at Saudi airports, in accordance with specific procedures, in order to identify their contents, and make sure that all concerned parties stick to the requirements.”
Regarding other measures that civil aviation authorities have adopted to inspect parcels, the GACA spokesman stated that all Saudi airports and shipping agencies have been advised to be especially careful about ensuring the safe contents of parcels.
He explained: “The GACA has numerous sophisticated tools to discover violations, and provides training in their use to airport security personnel and related persons.”
On another note, Saudi Arabia participated in the annual conference of the Airports Council International (ACI), which was held in Bermuda between the 2nd and 3rd of November 2010. Prince Turki Bin-Faisal, deputy GACA Chairman for organizations affairs, led the Saudi delegation to the council’s meetings, and other important activities.
The 20th annual session of the ACI’s General Assembly was held on the sidelines of the conference. Most member countries attended the meeting, which discussed several important matters concerning the present and future status of the world’s airports.
The ACI was founded in 1993 and set up its main headquarters in Geneva. It is considered one of the most important international organizations in the field of civil aviation. Most international airports and aviation authorities are among its 575 members, which represent 177 countries.