The International Air Transport Association (IATA) highlighted three priorities to enable the air cargo industry to maintain momentum against the backdrop of a challenging operating environment. The priorities, outlined at the 16th World Cargo Symposium (WCS), which opened recently in Istanbul are:
“Air cargo is a different industry than the one that entered the pandemic. Revenues are greater than they were pre-pandemic. Yields are higher. The world learned how critical supply chains are. And the contribution of air cargo to the bottom line of airlines is more evident than ever. Yet, we are still linked to the business cycle and global events. So, the war in Ukraine, uncertainty over where critical economic factors like interest rates, exchange rates and jobs growth are concerns that are real to the industry today. As we navigate the current situation, air cargo’s priorities have not changed, we need to continue to focus on sustainability, digitalisation, and safety,” said Brendan Sullivan, IATA’s global head of cargo.
Sustainability is a critical priority and the aviation industry’s license to do business. Last October, at the 41st ICAO Assembly, governments agreed to the Long-Term Aspirational Goal (LTAG) of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the industry’s commitment adopted in 2021. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is critical to achieving this goal, 65% of carbon abatement will come from SAF, however, production levels remain challenging. IATA called for government incentives for production. “SAF is being produced. And every single drop is being used. The problem is that the quantities are small. The solution is government policy incentives. Through incentivising production, we could see 30 billion litres of SAF available by 2030. That will still be far from where we need to be. But it would be a clear tipping point towards our net zero ambition of ample SAF quantities at affordable prices,” said Sullivan.
IATA outlined three other areas where it was working to support the energy transition of the industry:
- Supporting effective carbon calculations and offsetting through the development of accurate and standardised emissions calculation methodology and the launch of CO2 Connect for Cargo later this year – a precise tool for calculating emissions from operations.
- Expanding the IATA Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) to airports, cargo handling facilities, freight forwarders, and ramp handlers to allow the industry to drive commercial success, build trust in our sustainability actions, and positively impact the industry.
- Developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) related metrics to cut through the many methodologies in circulation with ESG Metrics Guidance for Airlines.
Air cargo needs to continuously improve its efficiency. The area with greatest potential is digitalisation. IATA outlined three goals:
- 100% airline capability of ONE Record by January 2026. This initiative will replace the many data standards used for transport documents with a single record for every shipment. The Cargo Services Conference agreed on Sunday that it wants to achieve 100% airline capability by 1 January 2026 and the Cargo Advisory Council supports this vision.
- Ensuring digital standards are in place to support the global supply chain. Guidance has been finalised on tracking devices – the IATA Interactive Cargo guidelines – used to monitor the quality and accuracy of conditions of time and temperature sensitive goods being shipped across the world.
- Ensuring compliance and support for customs, trade facilitation and other government processes that are increasingly digitalised. Digitalisation plays an important role in evolving strategies for trade facilitation, reducing operational barriers at borders and managing the flows of goods securely.
“Alongside sustainability and efficiency is safety. The agenda for air cargo continues to be dominated by lithium batteries. A lot has been done. But, quite honestly, it is still not enough,” said Sullivan. IATA outlined three safety priorities for air cargo:
- Stopping rogue shippers, Civil aviation authorities must take strong action against shippers not declaring lithium batteries in cargo or mail shipments.
- Accelerating the development of a test standard for fire-resistant aircraft containers with a fire involving lithium batteries.
- Ensuring recognition from governments of the single standard to identify all lithium battery powered vehicles which comes into effect from 1 January 2025.
Value of Air Cargo
“Air cargo is a critically important industry. It helps build a better future for the people of the world. it’s an industry that saves lives, delivering aid and relief to those in need. The industry mobilised to support those affected by the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye. Working together to ensure that air cargo remains a reliable and efficient means of providing support to those in need, while simultaneously strengthening our global supply chains and contributing to the sustainable development of our economies is essential,” concluded Sullivan.