By John W. McCurry
Momentum seems to be surging for the multilateral e-Air Waybill with the recent endorsement by the Airforwarders Association (AfA) and the Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA). The key endorsements come as a 12-member Cargo Network Services (CNS) advisory board officially begins its work at major airports around the U.S.
“It’s big for us in the U.S,” said Mike White, assistant director cargo facilitation, security and standards for Cargo Network Services.
The advisory board, nicknamed the “e-Air Waybill Champions,” held its first meeting in Houston on Thursday and will move on to Chicago on July 9. Other airports are Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Newark and New York’s JFK.
“It was our first opportunity to meet with the local folks and start locally to get the airlines, forwarders and ground handlers on board,” White said. “We will be moving on to the other 11 locations over the next six weeks or so and will hit other locations as well.”
White said about 70 people attended the Houston meeting and a lot of good questions were asked by small forwarders. Several niche forwarders serving the military in Afghanistan and Iraq are navigation issues about how to go paperless in those countries, he said.
“There is a real good understanding forwarder-wise and airline-wise that this is coming and it’s not going to be easy on day one,” White said. “There are some that are hesitant and kind of watching what the others are doing, but once some of the key forwarders are on board and see how it works, we will be getting there. Some are still dealing with paper, but many are willing to make the effort.”
Meanwhile, there have been additional signers on to the e-AWB, including Cargolux. More than 40 airlines and more than 60 forwarders are now on board.
“There’s been a real buy-in of forwarders of late,” White said. “They understand that this is coming. We have most of the multinational forwarders with a couple still looking at legal issues. I’m hearing that that’s more of a formality than anything
The champions meetings for the initial 12 cities will conclude by the end of August, but now there are plans to add more. White says there have been discussions about adding Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Portland, Phoenix and Charlotte. The effort will also go international with meetings to be scheduled at the major airports in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in Canada and Mexico City and Guadalajara in Mexico.
The champions are comprised of cargo chiefs of major airlines, association officials and logistics company executives.
“It helps to have them out there not just waving the flag, but being industry representatives,” White said. “It’s not just IATA or CNS. We all have to embrace it to make it work. It’s a real plus for us having these individuals on board….we are moving along and I think we probably moved further during the last two to three months than we did during the last two to three years.”