By John McCurry
The push toward wider acceptance of E-freight seemed to nudge forward a bit during a Tuesday panel session on the issue at the CNS Partnership Conference in Phoenix. Panelists and audience participants examined the progress made thus far and served up ideas on how to continue the momentum.
The packed session was viewed as a barometer of the growing interest in E-freight among carriers and forwarders. Attendees agreed that the benefits of E-freight must be spelled out to the industry for the movement to succeed. A strong show of hands by forwarders indicated the interest is there for E-freight.
“I am gob-smacked by the sheer enthusiasm we have seen this morning,” says Des Vertannes, IATA’s global head of cargo presiding over the conference. “There has been a lot of nonsense spoken saying the industry isn’t ready yet. There are too many obstacles. There are 101 different excuses, but what you have demonstrated that you are prepared to lead and that you are prepared to ignite what needs to be done.”
Mike White, CNS assistant director for cargo facilitation, security and standards, says Cargo Service Resolution 672, approved at the World Cargo Symposium in Doha in March, which allows IATA to be the clearing house between airlines and forwarders, will help make the move forward simpler.
Speaking of the U.S. air cargo industry, White says, “We have an opportunity to move forward and be the leader and we should be.”
A 12-member CNS advisory board on the e-AWB has been appointed and is charged with the task of advancing the moment in their respective U.S. cities. The board has also been dubbed the USA e-AWB Champions.
“They are there to represent the industry,” White says. “This is what we need to get the momentum going.”
The champions are assigned to be the leaders of the movement at airports in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, Newark and New York’s JFK.
IATA is publicizing the growing number of countries, airlines and airports that are leading the way with the e-AWB.
The leading countries in terms of volume as of March are:
- Hong Kong
- United Arab Emirates
- South Korea
- The Netherlands
The leading airports are:
- Hong Kong International
- Singapore Changi
- Incheon International
- Amsterdam Schiphol
- Taipei Chang Kai Shek
- London Heathrow
- Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson
10. Los Angeles International
Airlines who have signed the IATA Multilateral e-AWB Agreement to date are: Air Canada, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad, Iberia Lineas Aereas and Swiss International. Delta was the first to do so April 18.
Rich Zablocki, vice president, air products at CEVA Logistics, says the act of going paperless will be a gradual process for most companies.
“Most of us will still generate a piece of paper in the early days of this process, but as we learn, over time that piece of paper will go away. It would probably help if someone said here is the deadline and we are going to do it,” he says.
Vida Shaver, IT manager for Cargo Airport Services, says her company is making a considerable investment in technology to speed the process.
“As a ground handler, we have the opportunity to standardize the process for forwarders,” Shaver says. “Forwarders large and small appreciate the visibility and automation. They are ready for this. Internally, as handlers it’s up to us to make sure our own processes aren’t dependent on paper.”
White notes that while the U.S., the EU and much of Asia are moving toward E-freight acceptance, there are some countries that are reluctant to go paperless.
“If you are going to Brazil, Brazil wants a piece of paper,” White says. “We are working on Brazil.”
However, the momentum has not grabbed everyone in the industry. Airlines have complained about small and medium forwarders not embracing E-freight and several forwarders in the audience say some airlines are reluctant to move in that direction.
“Fundamentally, we have issues with some airports and we haven’t focused on it as much as we should,” Kenji Hashimoto, president at American Airlines Cargo, says. “We have to work some of the issues. It’s been a cultural issue in the history of America, but we are focused on it now and will press forward.”
White says some airports are reluctant, but CNS is talking to them one by one and he viewed the reluctance as “small speed bumps.” The champions group will also be a force in this direction, he says.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways has been one of the leaders in the airfreight movement.
“We took the approach of tough love,” Nick Rhodes, director cargo at Cathay Pacific Airways, says. “We said if you want to deal with Cathay Pacific, you have to do the e-AWB. We took the big leap on Jan. 1 of two years ago. It took us about 18 months to get the data right. Once you have it up and running, it does change the game. You need the home-based airline to take the lead in each airport.