COVID-19: IATA calls for air cargo coordination

Still too many examples of delays in getting charter permits issued, a lack of exemptions on COVID-19 testing for air cargo crew, and inadequate ground infrastructure to/from and within airport environments, association says.

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(PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The global trade association for the world’s airlines, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said governments need to improve international coordination to keep air cargo going, which is a lifeline for many countries suffering from the global COVID-19 pandemic. IATA said delays in permit approvals, quarantine measures for air cargo crew and not enough support on the ground continue to hamper the movement of cargo flights carrying vital medical supplies and other necessities.

Glyn Hughes, head of air cargo for IATA. (PHOTO: LinkedIn)

“Airlines are providing as much capacity as they can. Governments need to step up and ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient and that there is adequate infrastructure and support available in the air and on the ground,” said Glyn Hughes, IATA’s global head of air cargo.

Many governments and international regulatory bodies are facilitating the movement of air cargo. The European Commission issued Guidelines on Facilitating Air Cargo Operations During COVID-19 Outbreak. The World Customs Organisation (WCO) has implemented a series of emergency contacts to ensure cargo border blockages can be responded to immediately, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has issued a series of state letters urging member states to further facilitate air cargo flows during this time of crisis.

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Some airlines are coming up with innovative ways to use passenger cabins to carry cargo. (PHOTO: JC Aero)

But there are still too many examples of delays in getting charter permits issued, a lack of exemptions on COVID-19 testing for air cargo crew, and inadequate ground infrastructure to/from and within airport environments. Air cargo needs to move efficiently throughout the entire supply chain to be effective.

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A screenshot of the Johns Hopkins University virus tracking site take on 19 April. To access the live site, click on the image. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

IATA is urging governments to:

  • Cut the paperwork for charter operations;
  • Exempt cargo crew from quarantine rules that apply to the general population;
  • Ensure there is adequate staff and facilities to process cargo efficiently;
  • Mutually recognise agreed global standards (health certificates, licenses, etc.);
  • Ensure alternate airports are available even if passenger flights are not operating.

“To keep cargo flights operating safely, airlines need access to alternate airports along all routes. These alternate airports are where aircraft can land in the event of an emergency during flight. Because of the sharp drop in passenger flights, some airports that serve the critical alternate airport function are closed or not available at all times.  A coordinated effort by governments to keep alternate airports operational is needed. If not, the global air cargo network cannot function and vital shipments are at risk,” said Hughes.

“We all need to work together to keep cargo moving. That means we all need to be on the same page. Global standards are a priority to achieve this objective. IATA is disseminating the information required. And where there is more complexity, IATA’s vital role is to collect deviations/local information and make it available to all the players in the cargo industry,” said Hughes.

IATA resources on cargo

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Asian Aviation
Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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