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Back on track

Despite the best efforts of IATA and the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG), one of e-freight’s key targets suffered another year of slippage in 2012. So what progress has been made, and can the industry be confident of the new schedule, asks Will Waters

Guillaume Drucy, head of cargo e-business at IATA, acknowledges that some of the challenges for the implementation of e-freight are familiar ones. “But what’s new this past year is that we have, for the first time, been able to talk about an end-to-end aligned industry roadmap for how to get there,” he argues.


“In GACAG in 2012, the e-commerce task force has looked at what has been done and integrated it into a broad vision for the industry that would be supported by all of the supply chain, and would be endorsed by the four associations that are members of GACAG.”


These associations – IATA, Fiata, Tiaca and the Global Shippers’ Forum – have agreed a revised set of objectives, roles and responsibilities. “Fundamentally, what we have done is taken the end-to-end vision and split it into three components,” says Drucy. “Previously, it had all been bundled into one, and one of the issues that we had was that it was a lot to tackle at once.”


The first component is the interface between the industry and regulators; to create a network in which the regulatory and customs authorities allow the industry to operate on a paperless basis. The second pillar focuses on the core air cargo transport process, from airport to airport, from origin forwarder to destination forwarder, and the core documents that are part of that: the air waybill (AWB); the house manifest; the flight manifest; and the consignment security declaration.


The third pillar looks at digitising all the commercial documents that are typically carried in the pouch, which are relevant to forwarders and shippers but airlines themselves do not need to use.


Under the first pillar, there is a set of objectives to be achieved by the end of 2015: to be able to operate on a paperless basis as an industry on 80% of the world’s trade lanes. This is currently possible on about 34% of the world’s trade lanes, as measured by volume of AWB.


“So there is a lot of work to be done there,” says Drucy. “The key missing link is that there are a number of countries that are not yet on this network.” This includes, notably, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). “So the goal for 2013 is to do successful pilots in at least two of the four BRIC countries, to start on the road to digitising the core processes there.”


On the second pillar, the  key target is to have 100% electronic AWBs by the end of 2015. “We will also look to digitise the house manifests and flight manifests by 2015 – not necessarily to fully remove them, but to have a full capability of all the players to operate with these documents in paperless form should they want to,” Drucy adds. The goal for 2013 is 20% e-AWBs.


And for the third pillar, this year’s target is simply to design a plan for how to drive the digitisation of those documents, with a goal to set some timelines in terms of when and how.


The lead roles have also been adjusted, although IATA remains in control as project manager on pillars one and two. “The first pillar has to be an overall GACAG collaboration, and on the second pillar there has to be a strong cooperation between IATA and Fiata,” Drucy explains. “On the third pillar, it makes sense that the forwarder and shipper should take the lead, supported by IATA.”


One of the key steps involves lobbying countries to ratify the Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99), which allows for the replacement of the paper AWB by an alternative. But you also need the different government administrations in that country to accept the e-AWB, says Frederic Leger, IATA’s head of cargo business process and standards.

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