Racing to meet the e-freight target
The pace of implementation of e-AWB has been exceptional in the year 2014 with many airline carriers signing up for the execution of the electronic version of the airway bill. But, will the Indian air cargo sector be able to do away with its habit of subm
As the air cargo sector strives each day to move towards electronic freight, an initiative that encompasses all those involved in this sector from freight forwarders to end users (shippers), by replacing the paper with documents and messages that can be transmitted electronically, the need to do away with the requirement of the paper airway bills gave way to the concept of electronic airway bills (e-AWB) that allow airline carriers, freight forwarders, ground handlers and shippers to implement paperless freight transactions from the origin of shipment to its final destination.
Though the execution of the application of the e-AWB implies improvement in the speed and security of the air freight shipments, a lot needs to be done towards 100 per cent implementation of e-AWB, thus, facilitating total efficiency and accuracy in the system.
The adoption of the e-AWB, a document that is considered vital to the elimination of numerous paper documents that accompany every air freight shipment and enabling confidentiality of the concerned data, is essential to making the initiative of e-freight a success.
Emirates SkyCargo, enabled for both e-freight and e-AWB, is considered to be one of the pioneers amongst carriers lending full support to the initiative taken up, in favour of e-AWB, by IATA. Enumerating the reasons behind the fact that all airline carriers have not yet been able to implement the concept of efreight, Keki Patel, Cargo Manager India & Nepal, Emirates SkyCargo said, “e-freight and the e-AWB are the future of the air cargo industry and make the process much faster by reducing excess documentations and simplifying other procedures. While e-AWB proves beneficial or the industry, it requires full-hearted support and commitment from all stakeholders like shippers or consignees, freight forwarders, carriers, airport cargo custodians, customs and ground handlers.” However
Vipan Jain, Regional Manager – Logistics, South Asia & Middle East, Lufthansa Cargo echoes a different belief. Jain points out candidly, “eAWB is a part of the e-freight project, where not only airline carriers but also other stakeholders are expected to participate. As far as implementation by all is concerned, every project, particularly of mega size, like this takes time as we need all the players on the same platform. Overall in 2014, the adoption of e-AWB has been steadily on the rise, with more industry participants adopting it.”
Though the introduction and implementation of the e-AWB process have enabled simplification in the air freight process of supply chain, a lot needs to be done for all the airline carriers to adopt and implement the process. All Cathay Pacific online airports in India have successfully implemented the use of e-AWBs, Anand Yedery, Regional Cargo Manager – South Asia, Middle East & Africa, Cathay Pacific Airways elucidates, “The increase in e-freight validated airports in India is a valid sign. We at Cathay Pacific Cargo are convinced that e-AWB and e-freight are the most efficient procedures for the cargo industry and that is the way forward. Therefore, when we began, we prepared all our countries including India, to begin e-AWB and efreight process first with our for- warder customers. However there were challenges that we faced as paper documents were being used to clear export customs which is not required in e-freight enabled countries.”
The much desired initiative
An accelerated rate of increase in the adoption of e-AWB is expected as the various participants in the air cargo sector come forward to sign up for the bilateral e-AWB agreement with the carrier. Patel in this regard explained, “e-AWB can start as soon as the cargo agent signs up bilaterally the e-AWB / e-freight agreement with the carrier. This is important as there is no paper AWB and therefore the contract, conditions of contract, etc. must be registered with the car- rier; the agreement is assigned a numeric code and appears on all shipments tendered for carriage.” Stressing on what it would take for all those involved to come together and implement e-freight in full, Patel expressed, “Adopting e-AWB by the industry would very much depend on the initiatives and the readiness of all air cargo stakeholders to implement this cost effective and paperless process.”
But despite the benefits that eAWB has to offer, the transition to complete adoption of e-AWB would require investment of time and this necessitates the understanding of the entire supply chain on this project. Yedery emphasises, “The Indian government and customs are now beginning to support and prepare to adopt full e-freight paper free process. Airlines and forwarders and airports are already working closely with IATA to implement this project in India. This project cannot be successful if only few airlines and forwarders participate. There has to be a critical mass to influence all countries to adopt the future e-freight process.”
The multilateral e-AWB agreement was launched by IATA as a widely appreciated initiative to get rid of the paper documents that follow every air freight shipment. Patel elaborated, “For large national and multinational forwarders IATA has come up with a single multilateral agreement once signed, between forwarder and IATA, it is applicable to all participating carriers and all branches of the agent.”
As the Single Process approach comes with two benefits that are crucial to the freight forwarders and airlines, Jain highlights, “Pursuant to the IATA-FIATA joint communiqué in 2013, we appeal to our customers to sign the multilateral e-AWB agreement (MeA) as the first
step, which in turn will facilitate their e-AWB transmission without any binding from their side.”
Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), which operates the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru executed the e-freight concept, in November 2014.
Mahenthiran P, Senior Vice President (Bangalore & Mangalore), AISATS, stressed, “Pioneering and implementing advanced technological processes has always been AISATS’ vision and our Bengaluru facility resonates and embraces the same notion.”
“The e-freight initiative is yet another stride towards enhancing efficiency while being environmentally conscious,” Mahenthiran added.
Taking the first step
Sanjiv Edward, Head of Cargo Business, DIAL informed that DIAL has implemented e-LEO (Electronic Let Export Order) concept at IGI Airport wherein electronic message eliminates the use of paper copy of the location slip. Introduction of eLEO has resulted into a saving of approximately 3600 papers in a day, both Celebi and Cargo Service Center have also eliminated the use of AWB copy from the parking area, truck dock area and X-ray screening area, a common web-based IT platform is provided to airlines, CHAs, freight forwarders, CTOs at both the cargo terminals at IGIA for EDI and IATA messages (FFM/FHL, etc.) integration has been successfully implemented for participating airlines and custodians.
Can India meet the e-freight target?
Edward is quite optimistic that India will definitely achieve the ‘efreight’ vision. Sharing his views, he stated, “IGI airport is leading the initiative and has already been recognised by IATA as the first e-freight compliant airport in India. A successful proof of the e-freight concept for EDI was done by the DIAL team on ground for 100 per cent electronic operations for both export and import.”
Edward added, “The entire document processing for international cargo at IGI airport is being done on EDI mode only. We are sure that other airports in India will follow DIAL and also pick up similar capability to bring India on the e-freight map.”
Vipan Jain Regional Manager – Logistics, South Asia & Middle East, Lufthansa Cargo
Anand Yedery Regional Cargo Manager – South Asia, MiddleEast & Africa, Cathay Pacific Airways
Keki Patel Cargo Manager India & Nepal Emirates SkyCargo
Sanjiv Edward Head of Cargo Business Delhi International Airport Limited
Mahenthiran P Senior Vice President (Bangalore & Mangalore), AISATS