A 66 percent majority of delegates at WCS indicated they are still unaware of exactly what the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG) is doing to influence the rising tide of new legislation and regulation confronting our industry, suggesting that the group still has an uphill marketing task ahead of it.
Yet there has been much hard work going on behind the scenes in the four priority areas that the group set for itself: security, e-commerce, customs, and trade facilitation.
GACAG was formed by IATA, FIATA, The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), and the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) in November 2010 as a strong, unified voice in its dealings with worldwide regulatory authorities and other bodies whose decisions impact directly on air cargo.
Michael Steen, chairman of TIACA and of GACAG, said, “We were aware when we founded GACAG of how fragmented our industry was. How to work together was our starting point. We have to recognize that we have not been driving fundamental change – e-Freight, for example, still has not progressed as far as we would have hoped. We need to make sure that we live up to expectations.
“Our member organizations were representing their own members and we took time to understand the different organizations and their priorities, yet there was very little disagreement in between the four groups. We are aligning agendas, not reinventing the wheel and we’ve started to see some progress in security,” Steen said.
Regulators had embraced GACAG’s industry-wide perspective and accepted the principle that “one size fits all” was not the way forward. A risk-based, multilayered approach covering the total supply chain was now understood in the group’s ongoing dialogue with regulatory bodies and government policy makers, he added.
There were good best practices around the world in locations such as Korea, Singapore, and the Netherlands, though Steen accepted that the industry still faced “big bottlenecks” in getting processes fully aligned globally.
Responding to criticism about perceived slow progress toward e-Freight, Des Vertannes, IATA’s global head of cargo, said, “ We cannot go into a paperless environment without the framework–which takes several months and years. In the early part of the e-Freight program, it became evident that supply chain collaboration was fundamental in trying to get regulatory approval.
“When we started to pursue adoption of e-Freight in 2011, 10 percent implementation was actually achieved. This proves that when we set our minds to something we actually manage to achieve. Bear in mind this was in an environment that has been suffering recently,” Vertannes said.
“The benefit that GACAG brings is cohesion within a very fragmented sector in achieving a common vision. I am very grateful to GACAG for the fundamental role they are playing. They’ve blessed this vision and have embraced our timeline of 100% e-Freight implementation by 2015.”
GACAG’s involvement of shippers “puts the customer in the center of the work that has been done,” said Chris Welsh, GSF secretary general. “There is a tendency for the industry to focus on internal issues sometimes and it can lose sight of the companies who initiate shipments.”
Welsh suggested the air cargo industry needed to be “a lot sharper” to protect its market share in the longer term. Many of those customers shifting toward ocean freight “are responding to a perception that it is the wrong mode from the environmental point of view, something I don’t agree with,” he said.
He acknowledged the public’s apparent perception that air cargo is an unsustainable industry, and responsible for a greater share of CO2 emissions than is actually the case.
“This is not a question for air freight only, but for aviation, and we’ve been slow in addressing it. We are now waking up to the need to put our case more effectively. Our industry is vital to jobs and to the economies of countries,” Welsh said. “With the work GACAG is doing, we are able to bring together facts that we can all use with regulators.”