23 March 2016

Embracing digitalisation in air freight: shippers, freight forwarders and airlines need to move forward jointly

Speaking on behalf of European Freight Forwarders, CLECAT has called on airlines to make a general move into upgrading their messaging systems to the Cargo-XML standard. Nicolette van der Jagt, Director General of CLECAT said yesterday at the SITL in Paris: “today, too many airlines are slow in upgrading their systems and freight forwarders can often only communicate with airlines through Communication Platforms. These platforms need to translate messages into a format acceptable to the receiving airline, which often leads to loss of quality in the information. Therefore, our members have also requested that the airlines accept direct communication from/to their customers (freight forwarders) through secure communication channels.”

The debate took place at the SITL Europe 2016, a trade show in Paris covering all the links in transport, freight forwarding and the logistics chain, where TLF, CLECAT, AUTF and ESC jointly organised the 2nd Global Supply Chain Forum. The panel ‘Embracing digitalisation in air freight’ discussed the need for a more collaborative approach from all those involved from the cargo supply chain.

Ms van der Jagt noted that the e-AWB can provide clear benefits. ‘The AWB (Air Waybill) is the most important transportation document in air cargo and digitising it will bring accuracy, confidentiality and efficiency. Ultimately it will also lead to reduced paper usage and lower processing costs for stakeholders due to higher data accuracy.’

‘At this moment in time, however, forwarders have not felt the full benefit of these costs reductions and efficiencies. Those forwarders that are using e-AWB are not exempt from any fees for AMS filing and other pre-manifest systems, nor do they receive consistent status messages for all e-AWBs throughout the process, from booking to acceptance to departure/arrival and then final delivery.’ CLECAT also recommends that Ground Handling Agents become more involved in the efreight/eAWB process, so as to improve coordination. A possible solution for Ground Handling Agents to facilitate e-freight would be to develop a warehousing fast lane or fast track for the benefit of freight forwarders using e-freight. Finally, CLECAT calls on airlines to remove the paper fee which is nonetheless paid when using e-AWB, to create an incentive to digitize.

In conclusion, the European forwarder community is embracing the move towards digitalization but is criticizing the slow implementation and is calling for a collaborative joint effort among all stakeholders.