WCS 2018: The cross-border wave is coming – are you ready?

DALLAS – During Tuesday’s e-commerce panel at IATA’s World Cargo Symposium, e-commerce growth was a foregone conclusion, leaving panelists to discuss the more important question — is the air cargo logistics chain ready for the coming wave?

“We expect by 2020 we will see a triplification of cross-border flow,” said Liam O’Sullivan, director of operations with International Post Corporation (IPC). The current geographic composition of cross-border e-commerce movements is likely to experience a shake-up, as volumes between Europe and China have declined and traffic between Africa and the United States is on the rise, but overall, e-commerce volumes are headed up — and illustrating current logistical pain-points.

“We experienced huge bottlenecks moving freight in Europe last year, particularly in Germany,” as the main European e-commerce cities of Frankfurt, Luxembourg and London all saw delays impact shipments during Europe’s most recent peak season, said Panalpina’s global head of airfreight, Lucas Kuehner. With growth only continuing, Kuehner took a pragmatic view, adding, “No, I don’t think we’re ready, the infrastructure doesn’t allow for it.”

So how best to get ready? O’Sullivan has confidence that current postal infrastructure can be repurposed to facilitate the shift to e-commerce, but says business needs to “provide the link between the e-commerce provider and the post or express company,” meaning logistics aside from air transport must become more efficient to meet high customer expectations of short delivery times.

“Handlers, cargo airlines and the post will have to work very closely together,” he said. “If those three groups aren’t working hand in hand, we aren’t going to make it.”

Kuehner, meanwhile, is optimistic that smart application of technology, an area in which air cargo has lagged other industries, can help facilitate delivery speed. “This is also a call to arms — finally — so we have the reason we need to apply technology to this industry,” he said.

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