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Feb 24, 2012

Iata leading initiatives on paperless and secure air freight

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The International Air Transport Associ- ation (Iata) hopes to eliminate all paperwork from all air freight operations by 2015 in a programme called efreight. In addition, another programme, secure freight, is seeking to combine security with speed in the despatch of air freight.

The efreight programme is not just an Iata programme – it involves and is supported by all the major associations involved in the global air freight industry. “The efreight programme is to take paper out of the cargo supply chain,” explains Iata senior VP: industry distribution and financial services Aleksander Popovich. “We are trying to get as many countries as possible to qualify for efreight. This is a global supply chain initiative.”

Some 45 countries are now implementing the efreight system, and between them, these countries account for 75% to 80% of global air freight. Iata’s target for 2011 was that 10% of all the air freight of these countries would use the efreight system. This target was achieved.

One of the most important pieces of paper involved in air freight is the waybill. The waybill is a significant document which contains details and instructions regarding the shipment of goods. “For 2012, we have set a target for 15% of air waybills to be ewaybills,” he states. “Currently, it is just under 5%.”

The important thing about waybills is that they are documents that are passed between freight forwarders and airlines – they do not involve, and are of no interest to, customs agencies or any other government departments. Thus, the adoption of ewaybills is entirely the concern of the freight forwarders and carriers. “It is a matter of leadership in forwarders and carriers,” he asserts. “Cathay Pacific achieved 100% ewaybills out of Hong Kong in a matter of months.” The aim is to reach 100% use of ewaybills by 2014.

Regarding secure freight, the aim is to avoid the need to screen every piece of air freight. “That would bring the industry to its knees,” he observes. Iata believes that air freight security should be implemented using a risk-based approach. Approved secure operators would get preferential treatment at airports. “We need air freight operators to become secure operators to meet security standards,” he affirms.

Again, this initiative is not unique to Iata. “A number of governments have such stand-ards, under different names. But we need to link up governments and operators. “Could secure operators get fast lanes for their cargo at airports?”

There is a need to harmonise the different requirements and standards already estab-lished by different governments in individual initiatives. “Secure freight is trying to bring recognition of a common standard, building on what exists already,” explains Popovich. “Our goal is to build a secure freight network. In contrast to efreight, it is very difficult for us to set a 100% target for secure freight, for it is out of our hands. It’s in government hands. But we do set targets for each year. We break the target down into annual pieces. Last year, our target was to get two countries – Kenya and Malaysia – into secure freight, and we succeeded.” Malaysia was, in fact, the pilot country for the secure freight concept.

“Iata does not set the rules,” clarifies Popovich. “The airlines set the rules with the agents, both for passengers and cargo. Iata follows the rules. It is not our job to change the rules, but we can advise, we can make inputs and we can propose rules – but we don’t set them.”

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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