Shippers welcomed on board for the airlines gathering

IATA’s World Cargo Symposium took place in Abu Dhabi between the 14th and the 16th of March 2017. Three days of plenary sessions, parallel tracks on well defined topics; from high-level presentations about the state of play of Global Trade to micro-level aspects such as the effect of a Smart Unit Load Device (ULD) on the cost and efficiency of the supply chain, and of course many network opportunities. The European Shippers’ Council (ESC) was invited to participate significantly at the symposium and the ESC enthusiastically embraced this role.

The shippers’ active involvement was particularly seen in the debate about IATA’s shipper survey. The survey indicated that shippers are 70 percent satisfied with what air freight offers, that air freight’s competitiveness compared to other modes increased from 28 percent to 41 percent and so the dialogue between shippers and airlines.

Shippers expressed their strong voice in the panel on regaining profitability by countering  the suggestion to go for a partnership model between airlines like in liner shipping since the latter does not bring any benefits at all. On the other hand, ESC agreed  that better contractual agreements between parties involved in the process and a thorough analysis  of the processs, followed by improvements, will lead to a higher profitably. Last but not least, it was concluded that a more direct dialogue between shippers and airlines  and a reduced internal complexity inside the airlines will create a win/win situation for all parties.

Other important topics for shippers covered during the Symposium were the issue of overcapacity, extensive digitalisation and security.

Overcapacity is seen as a serious worry by all stakeholders like it is in liner shipping. Air freight’s belly capacity is 4 times larger than air freight’s full freighters’ capacity, while in 2012 the two were still on the same level. While in air freight the reason for overcapacity is the consequence of the extensive growth of wide-body planes used for passengers’ flights, in maritime, it is a proper choice to go for more capacity.

Also in airfreight, extensive digitalisation (with or without blockchain) becomes a must although one of the speakers passed on a clear message that this trend was only about how you sell and not what you sell; and the latter was obviously of a bigger importance. Good news is that e-Air waybills, as part of “going digital”, reached meanwhile a penetration of circa 50 %.

The message on security was that the focus is far too much on technology, not realising that people, processes and insider threats deserve much more attention. Luckily, “known consignor” certification is not under pressure for the time being.

In addition to this annual event IATA awards 5 innovative projects every two years. IATA has also started the Future Air Cargo Executives programme (FACE) to attract, retain and develop young talents in air cargo industry.

ESC can only congratulate IATA on a high-quality event and offer support whenever it is needed or possible. ESC is confident that the drive for innovation, reduction of internal complexity and more collaboration between stakeholders will bring air freight supply chains to a higher level.

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