WCS 2018: Are ‘baby steps’ too slow for perishables market?

DALLAS – Panelists at yesterday’s IATA World Cargo Symposium session covering nonpharmaceutical perishables agreed that the largest challenges currently facing perishables transport relate to a lack of communication between the different players. Solving that problem should be as simple as sharing data across the logistics chain, but unwillingness across the industry to share data among partner organizations was evident in the discussion.

“How do we trust each other to share data and not make it threatening to the chain?” asked moderator Chris Connell, senior vice president of perishables for North America with Commodity Forwarders Inc.

Even when partners are willing to share information on request, no clear industry-wide process for doing so exists. An audience member pointed out that “if the shipper or forwarder wants to follow shipment data all the way through the chain, he either has to go to the various parties and try to piece it together, or we have to get on a standard.”

A possible standard for shipping perishables, similar to IATA’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV-Pharma), is typically a popular topic during conversations surrounding perishables, and was endorsed by panelist Kerry Galegher, senior vice president cargo for the U.S. market with dnata. However, a standard set by IATA would not necessarily address industry hesitation to share even non-proprietary data like real-time cargo or environment temperatures, which could substantially improve cool-chain reliability.

Connell agreed, stating that a standard from IATA would be useful in helping operators promote their cool-chain. In his view, “we have a lot of the tools in place [to improve perishables shipments] and can’t figure out how to use them.”

Speaking to the panelists, Bert Jorritsma, special cargo service delivery manager with Emirates SkyCargo, expressed concern over the direction of current conversations in perishables transport. He said taking baby steps makes the industry “too slow” -— which could leave logistics operators cut out of the perishables chain if a more innovative operator emerges.

“So maybe we should pose the question of, what is stopping us from innovating?” he suggested.

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