IATA Cargo Day: CBP’s open door

The new mantra in border control and air security appears to be cooperation, rather than confrontation.

Oliver Evans, vice chairman of the International Air Transport Association and chairman of its Industry Affairs Committee, revealed at the IATA press conference in Geneva on December 6 that meetings with the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the start of the month had surpassed his expectations.

“We were surprised not just to find an open door, but by the genuine warmth of our reception. The agenda the U.S. government has got is the same as ours. They have recognized what we’re doing, and they want to facilitate trade,” he said.

Evans and Bill Gottlieb, past president of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), were in Washington under the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group banner. TIACA, FIATA, IATA and the Global Shippers’ Forum established GACAG as a single front for a complex industry with many component parts.

CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin told the GACAG representatives how he appreciated that the air cargo industry was now able to present its concerns with a unified voice, Gottlieb reported. “We face a formidable task, but there is willingness on the part of regulators to recognize each other’s efforts,” he said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel; we just want to make a better wheel. It’s rolling in the right direction.”

Glyn Hughes, IATA’s director, cargo industry management, said other industry stakeholders such as the World Customs Organization and ground handlers would be brought into GACAG working groups so that the industry could be seen to be working toward coherent solutions on issues such as electronic declarations and supply-chain security.

While welcoming IATA’s figures on increased adoption of e-air waybills, however, Evans said that identifying failures in the system and reasons for lack of take-up was “more important than the numbers game.”

IATA wants to see a fully paperless process for air cargo transportation by 2014. Updating the media on the progress of this initiative, Guillaume Drucy, IATA’s head of cargo e-business, said 42 airlines and more than 400 freight forwarders were now active in e-freight.

By the end of this year, Drucy estimated that 9 percent of the trade lanes potentially open to e-freight (that is, between the 111 signatory countries to the Montreal Convention 1999 and to Protocol 4 of the Warsaw Convention) would have gone live, just short of the organization’s goal of 10 percent. The IATA board has set a target of 15 percent e-AWBs in 2012, 70 percent by 2013, and 100 percent by 2014.

Stressing the process benefits of single-source data capture, Drucy quoted a study by Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority showing that 37 percent of the information on house waybills is derived from the invoice or packing list. Then, the airline traditionally has to recapture or re-key the data for the air waybill.

Frederic Leger, IATA’s head of cargo business process and standards, said greater adoption of e-AWBs would help reduce other paper documentation. South Korea was set to introduce the concept of accepting freight and data together at the departing airport from January 1, rather than the authorities and transportation parties proceeding in sequence, and he was confident this would streamline the flow of goods. Ghana and Israel were also close to implementing this system.

The problem for the regulatory authorities was that cargo could potentially be in transit before high-risk shipments were identified, but Leger said there were still ways of shortening the timeline since only shipper data was needed to carry out the risk assessment. Time-savings will also be possible further along the supply chain with single authorization, where the exporting authority is able to push information directly to the importing authority.

Air Cargo World correspondent Martin Roebuck has been on the scene in Geneva,  reporting IATA’s cargo moves.

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