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Air cargo sector modernising with growth of e-freight and introduction of new handling manual

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) hopes the growth of e-freight and a new cargo handling manual will help the air cargo industry to accelerate its rate of modernisation

The air freight cargo industry must embrace modernisation in order to continue growing, claimed The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, at the World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi last week.

Air Freight Growth

After several years of virtually no growth, air cargo demand began to rise in the second half of 2016 partly due to the sea cargo crisis, while January cargo performance showed a 7 per cent growth in demand compared to the previous year.

In recent months, the sector has seen e-commerce companies such as Amazon trying to emerge as leading air-freight forwarders, and while some are unsure how successful they can be, de Juniac feels that the industry should certainly look to implement some of the internet processes that have been adopted both for travel and commercial purposes.  

Referring to the importance of simple electronic processes in the modern world, he encouraged the air cargo sector to seriously consider introducing an e-freight service into the shipment process, which can sometimes require up to 30 pieces of paper.

“We all travel with e-tickets. People like them because they not only made travel easier, they made shopping and buying travel easier because it can be done online,” he said.

“With the exception of the air cargo world, innovations like these cut across modern society. Complicated and convoluted paper-based processes that are basically unchanged from the 16th century are still being used in air cargo today.

“It’s ridiculous and an unnecessary waste of resources in our internet-connected world that a single cargo shipment can require up to 30 pieces of paper. Our customers pay a premium to ship by air and they rightly expect modern processes and high quality services.

“Our solution is e-freight and we are making progress. On one important aspect of the e-freight vision, we are close to achieving a significant milestone. Global e-AWB penetration is nearly at 50%. And the target expectation is to be at 62% by year-end.”

De Juniac also called upon governments to show further support to the industry by implementing global standards. So far, 124 countries have adopted a Montreal Convention governing the regulation of digital documentation but some key countries such as Thailand and Vietnam are not yet on board.

He also declared that World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement should be implemented quickly to make trade cheaper, faster and easier.

But de Juniac will be cautiously optimistic after the IATA announced a Cargo Handling Manuel to help airlines and cargo handlers work together more effectively while improving safety and efficiency in air cargo operations.

The IATA Cargo Handling Manual (ICHM) is the first complete set of standards covering the operational activities of all stakeholders in the cargo handling supply chain and is the latest development in the air cargo industry’s efforts to transform itself through improving processes and simplifying the business.

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