Mar 12, 2019: At the ongoing International Air Transport Association (IATA) World Cargo Symposium in Singapore, governments and the air cargo industry came together to focus on three priorities to accommodate the expanding demand for air cargo and ensure the economic and social benefits of aviation can be maximised.

The priorities are accelerating the speed of process modernisation, implementing and enforcing global standards, and keeping borders open to trade. The call came during the opening address by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, at the event.

The operating environment for air cargo is increasingly challenging. Demand for air cargo grew by 3.5 percent in 2018, a significant deceleration from 2017 which saw extraordinary growth of 9.7 percent. Weakening global trade, sagging consumer confidence and geopolitical headwinds contributed to a general slowdown in demand growth commencing in mid-2018. And January 2019 saw a year-on-year contraction of 1.8 percent.

IATA called for the modernisation of industry processes. This will be critical to efficiently meet the doubling of demand expected over the next two decades. And it is already being called for by customers of the industry’s most promising growth markets - e-commerce and the transport of time - and temperature-sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals and perishables.

IATA also called for modernisation of air cargo facilities. “The e-commerce world is looking for fully automated high-rack warehouses, with autonomous green vehicles navigating through the facility, and employees equipped with artificial intelligence and augmented reality tools. The average cargo warehouse today is an impressive sight. But there is a huge gap to fill,” said de Juniac.

“The problem is not technology. The problem is the speed to market. It’s exceptionally tough to drive change in a global industry with a huge number of stakeholders where safety is a top priority. But it is not mission impossible. I challenge stakeholders to find ways to drive critical change at the speed our customers expect,” he said.

IATA urged governments to ensure that global standards are consistently implemented and enforced when necessary. He highlighted on global standards being ignored by rogue shippers for the safe transport of lithium batteries and governments are not enforcing the rules. Juniac focused on implementation of global agreements such as The World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, the Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99); and revisions to the Kyoto Convention of the World Customs Organisation to make trade simpler, cheaper and faster.

IATA urged governments to keep borders open to trade. “Protectionism, trade friction, Brexit and anti-globalisation rhetoric are part of a genre of developments that pose a real risk to our business and broadly across the economies of the world. We need to be a strong voice reminding governments that the work of aviation, including air cargo, is critically important. Trade generates prosperity. And there are no long-term winners from trade wars or protectionist measures,” said de Juniac.

The need to keep the world trading aligns with the theme of the 13th World Cargo Symposium- Enabling Global Trade. “Enabling global trade is a mission of great importance. It helps economies to grow. And in doing so it promotes better livelihoods and a better quality of life for real people in every corner of the planet. This is an integral part of why we call aviation the Business of Freedom. And nothing should stand in the way of air cargo delivering its unique contribution to the prosperity of our world,” he concluded.

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