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IATA data signals bad news for cargo

By control on October 3, 2011

Freight volumes fell considerably in August, according to International Air Transport Association data. Although several regions experienced year-over-year declines, the losses were most marked in North America and the Asia-Pacific, with these regions posting respective decreases of 7 percent and 5.4 percent.

August was also a difficult month for the European airfreight sector. Cargo volumes in this continent dropped 1.8 percent from August 2010, propelled by sluggish world economies and the loss of market share to other transportation modes.

It was a phenomenon that affected carriers worldwide. Overall, freight markets fell 3.8 percent from August 2010, more than double the rate of loss experienced in July. What’s more, the utilization of airfreight dropped 4 percentage points since the second quarter of 2010, according to IATA.

Not all regional carriers experienced shrinking cargo volumes, however. Latin American, Middle Eastern and African airlines reported growth in the month in question, with freight volumes surging 5.4 percent, 3.7 percent and 2.2 percent from August 2010, respectively.

Either way, IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler points to the various hits being dealt to the global airfreight sector. “The freight business is now shrinking at a faster pace,” he said. Unfortunately, he doesn’t anticipate recovery in the near future. “With business and consumer confidence continuing to slump globally," he added, "there is not a lot of optimism for improved conditions any time soon."

The problem is multifaceted, he explained. “Economic uncertainty owing to the European sovereign debt crisis and the growing likelihood of a protracted period of slow growth in developed economies mean the industry will be even more focused on reducing costs and improving efficiency,” Tyler said in a statement. It’s why he reiterates the need for global policies that promote aviation, instead of those adding to carriers’ burdens.

“To ensure that airlines can continue to catalyze economic activity, we need governments to review the often-onerous tax burden that they place on aviation,” Tyler concluded.

IATA officials are also urging governments to get on board with their Checkpoint of the Future initiative. To expedite the screening process, IATA has developed a new approach to security — one that seeks to identify risk throughout the supply chain and unify government measures. According to an IATA spokeswoman, passengers approaching the checkpoint will be instructed to enter one of three lanes: “known traveler,” “normal” and “enhanced security.”

It’s an approach Tyler endorsed wholeheartedly at the recent AVSEC World Conference and Exhibition in Amsterdam. He also mentioned how last year’s thwarted Yemen cargo bomb plot highlighted the need for sophisticated screening tools.

“The future of air cargo security is a multilayered approach involving the whole supply chain and including both advanced electronic information and physical screening,” Tyler stated. “But we don’t want to see 100-percent screening at airports, which would grind global commerce to a halt.”

Instead, IATA officials cite their Secure Freight program and the guidelines established through the International Civil Aviation Organization as key to maintaining high levels of security.

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