CONFERENCE REPORT: Air Cargo Handling 2015

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The 7th annual Air Cargo Handling Conference took place outside of Europe for the first time at the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok in September, hosted by Worldwide Flight Services and Bangkok Flight Services.

Three days of activities including working groups, one-to-one meetings, focused presentations, and panel discussions, brought attendees up to date with the latest developments and best practice, thanks to input and insights from leading air cargo executives.

Pre-conference day
The show ran alongside the ULD Care conference and started off with five concurrent working groups, discussing key issues relating to, respectively: ULDs; messaging bottlenecks; e-AWB implementation; CEIV Pharma; and industry training. Those who attended the sessions praised the debates, which culminated in thought-provoking ideas that were noted by each of the group leaders, to be collated and distributed among delegates in order to help strive towards achieving their collective goals.

Day one
Conference chairman John Batten and chief moderator Chris Notter kicked off proceedings with a summary of events over the last year. Some candid thoughts from John Batten suggested that not enough was being done to advance the industry into becoming more efficient, but that a collective push from all parties in the supply chain, including governing bodies and initiatives, could rescue market share lost to other transport modes.

Urs Wiesendanger, president of ULD Care, discussed the importance of implementing best practices when managing ULDs, claiming the sector can save millions if the whole air cargo handling chain took more responsibility to make sure ULDs are maintained and used correctly.

David Ambridge, cargo general manager at Bangkok Flight Services, and Andre Majeres, IATA’s manager of cargo & mail operations and standards, highlighted the latest work and decisions from IATA’s Cargo Operations Advisory Group (COAG), including at the previous day’s meeting. They revealed that COAG is to be renamed the IATA Cargo Handling Council (ICHC) and include 16 members (8 cargo handlers and 8 airlines) under IATA’s Cargo Services Conference (CSC), in order to increase the speed in which standards and industry positions are developed, endorsed, and implemented (see ‘Measuring progress: COAG’s commitments’ panel).

After a session break, airlines discussed how their handling needs have changed, post-crisis. Serdar Demir, VP cargo operations at Turkish Airlines, and Robert Fordree, head of cargo handling at Etihad Cargo, described their companies’ respective priorities, the operational challenges of e-freight/e-AWB, and techniques for crisis aversion in the current climate. Demir spoke of how a carrier can outwardly manage its profile in order to mitigate negativity, while Fordree discussed how working with a network of certified, preferred handlers could build consistent quality and service. Fordree also discussed how SLA compliance, C2K compliance, and the handler’s commitment to safety, security and training, combines to build a strong platform for shippers and forwarders.

Patrik Tschirch, managing director of LUG aircargo handling, outlined how the handler’s needs and position has been changing, and how the contractual relationships between shipper, forwarder and handler should be more accessible in order to improve the dynamics of the supply chain. He also highlighted how SLAs between the airline and handling agent do not match the agreements between the airline and forwarder and, as such, forwarders must take more responsibility for certain aspects of the shipping process.

The Technology Challenge
In ‘The Technology Challenge’, key companies facilitating the implementation of e-freight and e-AWB were put under the microscope and attempted to look into the future of technology within air cargo handling. Oliver Neerfeld, head of commercial operations Asia Pacific at CHAMP Cargosystems, spoke of the current initiatives he is currently “championing” in order to assist data quality, integrity and harmonization – and how applications like CargoUpdate, Logitude, and further facilitation of e-AWB initiatives should see the efficiency of air cargo handling improve. John DeBenedette, managing director of Worldwide Information Network, also presented his interpretation of how we are moving towards a connected, paperless system. John spoke of how his work in automating the weight slip process has shown clear results in increasing e-AWB implementation, especially within the Thai market.

And wrapping up day one, Carsten Hernig, managing director of Jettainer, outlined how a culmination of both hardware and software is the key to a well-managed ULD and ground handling set-up – and the introduction of a mobile application from Jettainer also helps raise the levels of collaboration among those within the air cargo handling supply chain!

Day two
In the aptly named ‘Hard Talk: Question Time with Industry Leaders’ session, Henrik Ambak, SVP for cargo operations worldwide at Emirates SkyCargo, spoke of how the lowest price isn’t necessarily the lowest cost when deciding on who to choose to handle cargo, with valuable input from Schiphol’s Jonas van Stekelenburg, IATA’s Glyn Hughes, Hactl’s Tan Chee Hong, and Cargolux’s Michel Fiorani, debating innovative ideas and industry best practice.

Giovanni Douven, lecturer and research fellow at the Inholland University of Applied Sciences, gave a compelling talk on how digitalisation at Amsterdam Schiphol has significantly increased efficiency and effectiveness, resulting in faster throughput times, shorter waiting times and better planning.

After a presentation on what the e-commerce industry has to offer in terms of an interface with the client, Stan Wraight, senior executive director at Strategic Aviation Solutions International, was joined on stage by conference chairman John Batten, Luc Larrieu-Sans, international transport manager at La Poste, and Peter Weir, COO for dnata Australia. Larrieu-Sans gave his perspective of the mail sector and how it benefits business to be in direct contact with its customers, while others stressed the need for GHAs to change and diversify, as well as the importance put on C2K.

From the final speakers, delegates heard two differing perspectives from two important cargo hubs in Europe. Nick Platts from Heathrow outlined his plans in the new role of head of cargo (see article on pages XXX) and asked the audience to give their feedback of their experiences with Heathrow. Also newly appointed, Dirk Schusdziara, senior VP for cargo development and management at Fraport, described how Frankfurt Airport’s ‘Speed Gate’ allowed fast transit from landside to airside, and stressed the importance of collaboration in order to accelerate the overall process.

Marking the end of proceedings, conference chairman John Batten then gave his review of each key theme raised in the conference. Chris Notter, chief moderator, then outlined what he saw as the list of commitments that the industry needed to be held accountable to (see ‘By next year…’ slides). The aim is that the air cargo handling chain, along with the various industry initiatives, will be examined in time for the event next year to see how much of what has been promised is actually achieved.


IATA’s Cargo Operations Advisory Group (COAG) took part in the Air Cargo Handling (ACH) conference in Bangkok from 1 to 3 September 2015. We have been asked by the chairman and the chief moderator of the conference to provide a post-conference report regarding activities and tasks agreed between the COAG and the ACH Conference to be undertaken by the next ACH Conference in September 2016.Marking the end of the conference, Chris Notter, chief moderator, showed a few final slides that he sees as a list of industry-critical items that the COAG has committed to work on until the

next ACH Conference 2016, to support the cargo handling community in its activities (see Conference chairman’s concluding slides).

During the conference, the COAG gave the audience a roundup of its achievements and ongoing activities, the next steps moving forward, as well as agreed objectives.

The work within the COAG (and its discussions at ACH) focused on five main areas: The Facility Capabilities Matrix; SLAs; IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations; Dwell times in the air cargo supply chain; And the proper and effective management, use, and control of ULDs.

The Facility Capabilities Matrix (FCM) lists the capabilities that a cargo facility could be measured against, the purpose of which is to enhance cargo-handling capabilities to a consistently high standard while identifying possible non-compliance in critical areas.

This has now come to a mature stage and is published on the IATA Cargo Operations webpage:

a. The goal, in the first phase, will be to allow cargo handlers to download (free of charge) the checklist and perform a self-assessment to perform their own gap analysis.

b. The second phase will be the development of an independent validation process, which is under investigation at present time with the IATA ISAGO team, in order to verify the capabilities assessed in the facility.

c. At the next COAG meeting, IATA will seek to partner carriers to GHAs and to enlarge the pilot community, calling for (neutral) volunteers to be included. The objective will be that GHA facilities would be assessed by a partnered carrier.

d. IATA would then prepare a preliminary report based on a short survey to understand the full extent of value the Facility Capabilities Matrix will provide. Were shortfalls and gaps easily identified? Did it facilitate a conversation between carriers and ground handlers on quality and performance? Will the transparency provided be beneficial for all parties?

e. A preliminary update will be presented at the next IATA WCS in Berlin (15-17 March 2016) during the Cargo Operations Track, and a full report of the validation process will be presented at the next ACH conference, in 2016.

Over the last few years, COAG members have noticed very large variations in the type and length of SLAs – which in some cases exceeded 40 pages. These variations have resulted in inefficient application of the SLAs and in many cases non-measurement, defeating the purpose.
The COAG’s ‘Cargo Recommended SLA’ has now been finalised and agreed by the Aviation Ground Services Agreement (AGSA) group, which owns the AHM 803 (ATA Airport Handling Manual) .

The changes would help to remove complexity and improve the customer experience by providing transparency and consistency in the air cargo supply chain. The customer referred to in the term ‘customer experience’ is the freight forwarder/shipper, rather than the customer airline referred to in the SGHA.

a. At the next COAG meeting, the members will pilot COAG’s ‘Cargo Recommended SLA’.

b. Again the COAG will be looking for volunteers ready to launch the template and introduce a mutual and joint exercise.
(Those parties interested can contact IATA using the following e-mail address:

c. An update of the challenges and benefits will be provided at the next IATA WCS in Berlin (15-17 March 2016) during the Cargo Operations Track.

The COAG is also looking at the implementation of the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO), which aims to improve safety by drastically reducing ground accidents and injuries and is modelled on the successful IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) programme.

a. The COAG is investigating the possibility to extend the ISAGO audit to the core Cargo Operations and more. This would allow for standardization and not overly burden the industry in creating a new audit.

b. Today, ISAGO uses the scope of the IATA Ground Operation Manual (IGOM), and contains 21 topics related to cargo safety working instructions out of 85 core cargo handling topics currently found in the airlines cargo operations manuals.

c. Therefore the COAG has started to draft a standardized IATA Cargo Handling Manual (CHM), upon which an enhanced ISAGO could be based.
There will be a need to focus on the development of competency-based criteria of the auditors and investigate training, licensing, or certification of those independent validators.

d. A review would then be presented at the next IATA WCS in Berlin (15-17 March 2016) during the Cargo Operations Track.

The COAG made a presentation to the ACH conference dealing with dwell times in the air cargo supply chain.

a. For some time now, it has become increasing obvious to all stakeholders that the transport time from the shipper to the consignee has to be reduced.

The COAG decided to investigate the issue and started to perform various measurements to assess those areas where processes could be improved and time saved: on the export side between acceptance (RCS) and departure (ATD); on the import side between arrival (ATA) and warehouse check-in (RCF) and finally the delivery (DLV).

b. The airline members of the COAG will now provide their associated measurements to determine the length of the flights especially in transit.

c. The COAG will seek further volunteers to perform assessments and those parties interested can contact IATA using the following e-mail address:

d. Those measurements will then be shared with the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG) composed of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) and the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF). This industry analysis will help to identify the segments in the supply chain where improvements can be made and will be shared at the next IATA WCS in Berlin (15-17 March 2016) during the Cargo Operations Track.

The final topic covered by the COAG was that of the importance of proper and effective management, use, and control of ULDs. Over US$300m is spent each year on repairing damaged ULDs, which is a result of poor industry awareness and training. ULDs are also the most common cause of damage to aircraft on the ground, according to IATA’s Ground Damage Database (GDDB). COAG is advocating the wider adoption of the ULD Regulations as well as looking at measures designed to raise the awareness of ULDs to operational staff.

On the last slide, the chief moderator asked the COAG and IATA to support three solid and achievable initiatives agreed upon by the industry. These points would be communicated to the COAG for verification, endorsement and clear milestones – the three initiatives hereunder:

1) Implementation of the Facility Capabilities Matrix (FCM), self-assessment, and independent audit verification.

This includes investigation of how we integrate into ISAGO, audit of competencies, etc.

2) ULD awareness

A campaign to increase the industry awareness of ULDs, the impact on flight safety, costs, etc.

3) Optimization and efficiency – leading the industry with green lanes, single process, and transparency of activity through dwell time publishing and simplified SLA implementation.
This includes developing a set of core cargo operations content into a single set of published and agreed standards to be adopted by the industry (e.g. the Cargo Handling Manual – CHM).

Manager, Cargo & Mail Operations & Standards, IATA

Reflections from the conference’s chief moderator:

Chris Notter, vice president of operations, Saudi Airlines Cargo

Q. What were your main objectives and how do you think the end result satisfied your initial targets?

A. The difficult task at any conference is the generation of active and challenging involvement from the audience during the structured sessions. This year was very good, and after a little warming up there were some very thought-provoking comments and interactions. The opportunity to participate from the floor is key to the success of the conference. I was also very impressed with many of the speakers – many of whom gave a genuine and passionate delivery of their subject matter.

Another target is to ensure that a clear message or storyline runs through the conference, and if the key subjects and speakers are also endorsing similar messages then there is life in the sessions. Networking and making conferences work for each participant and organization is also of high value.

Whilst the industry is well populated with conferences and meetings, it is always good if we share a smile or a few laughs whilst addressing the detail with the importance it deserves.

The last thing that should always be in place is that we have covered some development and improvement and set ourselves some clear objectives for the time in between one conference and another.

Q. What were the key messages that were on your shortlist?

A. The opening message and focus was on ‘FEAR’ – why do we do what we do? Why is our business sometimes not seen to be as dynamic as many of us feel that it is? What can we do to take the FEAR (which confines us to our comfort zone without challenging or embracing change) out of our daily responses, reactions and resolve?

The FEAR came from all areas of the process – whether it was because of competition, change, influences, service levels, pressures, expectation, and the obvious partnership of safety and security. The FEAR also was aimed at us as the industry team itself. Why do we not say ‘NO’ or ask ‘WHY?’ If something does not make sense or improve efficiency or productivity, why do we allow it to add more complexity to our process?

What is wrong with challenging and suggesting that standard practices are what allow repeatability and consistency, as well as confidence among employees who have so much to remember and refer to? Authorities and stakeholders, as with customers, demand quality, consistency and a reliable experience. To deliver these expectations, our energy has to be built around ‘Compliance and Competence’.

Again, to deliver these basic principles, we have to ensure transparency of what we do, when, by whom, and why. If we always focus on complying with directives and supporting key initiatives by ensuring a competent and motivated team (rather than accepting every change or workaround or shortcut), with the confidence of saying ‘no’ where necessary, then we will become more reliable and competitive. It will be simplicity of working practices and not complex ‘just in case’ requirements that will allow logic to prevail rather than the chains of legacy.

The community itself needs to be very careful how we approach this coming year. To defend or react is far too familiar; we need to go on a positive offensive and lay a path that will allow greater transparency, speed, and accuracy.

Q. Do you feel that there were enough commitments made as actions from the conference?

A. Many participants, and the direct feedback given, suggested that there should be some clear and simple targets, tasks, and actions. With the fact that IATA senior management and members of COAG had met prior to the conference, the feeling of commitment was equally echoed. To this end, some final points and slides were provided. These basic objectives, if done well, will demonstrate how things can be done better and collectively – like minds wanting to simplify our processes without compromising our core principles and foundations. (See ‘By next year…’ slides)

COAG representatives also gave a solid update on their activities and development and the combined input and action planned gives a positive approach to meeting the challenges ahead. The results of the actions and the real commitment and capability of all involved in accepting the challenges will determine the success or not. Do we bark but not bite? Are we ‘yes people’ if pressured and not ‘no people’ if needed? Do we ask ‘why’ instead of accepting everything that complicates our working practice? Do we work around instead of working as described? Do we agree that we can do or that we want to… but then often fail to deliver? It is always good to reflect and evaluate – let us see where we are and what we have achieved when ACH meets next year in Dubai.

Q. What were the highlights of the conference for you?

A. Seeing so many new faces – from Hounslow to Hawaii! Seeing many younger colleagues who wanted to participate and enjoyed the opportunity to ask and be heard. Seeing so many carriers having a positive response to the request: ‘Will they bring some customers to ACH next year and with their respective customers as well?’ If the industry team wants to change, we will have to include all positions within our logistics chain… then we will be able to LEAD CHANGE.

By next year…
• A significant and influential number of companies participating to ensure impact
• 5 – COAG partner teams: Carrier and GHA location
• 4 – neutral volunteer GHAs to be included – Local heroes
• Self-completion of the FCM exercise
• Formal verification by COAG carrier
• All results consolidated and preliminary presentation during the OPS track of WCS 2016 in Berlin
• IATA sign off on final verification exercise for formal ‘success’ review during ACH 2016

By next year…
• A significant and consistent uptake in the COAG-influenced SLA template
• 5 carriers to launch the template and introduce ‘MUTUAL & JOINT’ exercises
• Clear measurable criteria
• Clear pro-active reporting and verification of accuracy and relevance / Customer Experience
• The opportunity for 3-4 volunteer GHAs to be included
• Update and benefit review included in Operations track during WCS – 2016

By next year…
• To agree on a formal and credible ISAGO-based audit supported by partner carriers
• 4-5 carriers to agree on the locations and the structure
• Same carriers to agree on minimum criteria for the auditors
• IATA to verify competence of the auditors and ‘license’ the individuals
• Review of findings (and there will be!) during the WCS 2016
• Proposals for moving forward and carrier buy-in to reduce the overkill audit concept currently experienced

By next year…
• To have a more transparent and coordinated review of dwell time process
• 5 carrier and GHA combinations from COAG to agree on ‘dwell time mapping’ with ‘improvement scope’
• Identify the risk areas that impact on Customer Experience and/or Customer Perception
• Invite 5 local hero GHAs to provide the same
• Prepare an industry ‘concern’ report for presentation in Berlin at WCS 2016
• Identify the risk impact and also the ‘right things to do!’ – these then to be presented at next years ACH

By next year…
• IATA team to agree on 3-4 solid and achievable initiatives that are driven and not ‘recommended’
• All points to be communicated to COAG for verification, endorsement, and FULL SUPPORT
• Roadmap for Results – clear milestones and expectations.

1. Topics, atmosphere
A theme running through the event explained the conformance and compliance aspects facing handlers and the pressure put on ground handling agents (GHAs) by the procurement departments of airlines. The GHAs seem to be under enormous cost pressures, which some feel stifle value propositions. Service agreements (in excess of 40 pages!) are increasingly more demanding and difficult to fulfil. They also seem to stifle innovation and restrain process optimizations at GHA level. Whilst the GHAs try to do their, best I got the impression they do not feel appreciated.

2. Panel discussion: A viable e-commerce platform for the air cargo industry?
This discussion was an interesting continuation of the talk on the same theme at the IATA WCS in Shanghai. Shippers have demanded and continue to demand a higher level of visibility along the whole air cargo supply chain and better traceability of shipments. Airline services currently lack transparency compared with integrator services. There is also a demand from shippers that GHA should be able to track shipments globally across different airlines. An emerging situation is that an increasing number of shippers consider by-passing forwarders and go directly to the airline handler to ensure the necessary process transparency. La Poste would be interested to work directly with GHA for a more integrated mail service. The panel felt that Cargo 2000 might be a program to deliver horizontal visibility across multiple players.

CHAMP Cargosystems has developed solutions that help airlines, GHA, and mail service providers to meet shippers’ aspirations and improve traceability of shipments and visibility along the supply chain.

3. The technology challenge
(Presentation by Oliver Neerfeld, Head of Commercial Operations Asia Pacific, CHAMP Cargosystems)
Neerfeld summarized what CHAMP had done over the past year and what solutions were currently in the pipeline:

CHAMP Cargosystems and its customers have made considerable progress on the technology path during the last twelve months. Those airlines that have not yet shed their legacy systems or are in a transformation process are under pressure to migrate to new technology platforms in the next two to three years in order to engage with industry initiatives such as the continued drive to remove paper from the processes.

The CHAMP community information system CargoUpdate has increased market penetration. The web-based freight forwarding system Logitude has won new customers. It enables SME forwarders to manage quotes, shipments, bookings and consolidations more efficiently and cost-effectively. It also provides access to one of the largest e-AWB networks, Traxon cargoHUB, which connects more than 100 airlines.

The industry leading messaging platform is ready to fully support the IATA CXML V.3 standard. However, many airlines and agents are not yet ready. And there are still hundreds of non-EDI forwarders and handlers causing bottlenecks in electronic data exchange.

Although global eAWB penetration looks set to fall short of the IATA target of 45% by the end of the year customs and e-Customs compliance via TraxonGlobal Customs (TGC) has greatly improved now embracing 39 countries with a further 8 under evaluation. In addition, implementation of Cargo 2000 airport-to-airport quality standards has also increased. In general, more data are digitised at source and data quality has improved along the whole transport chain.

4. Break out session: Messaging bottlenecks
The discussion showed that messaging bottlenecks occur mainly due to companies working with different system versions that sometimes cannot communicate without flaw with each other in a multi-tier environment. IATA should promote Cargo XML as primary reference for messaging. However, there are also still numerous non-EDI handlers that need to be enticed to participate in electronic data exchange.

One of the key aims of the air cargo industry is to shred paper processes. However, the air cargo industry as a whole should not think merely about replacing paper by electronic messaging. It should focus on finding leaner, more cost-efficient processes deliver more value to customers and a better customer experience.

5. What did CHAMP take home from the ACH 2015 conference?
The conference discussions reinforced CHAMP’s viewpoint that the air logistics supply chain must become more visible and transparent to shippers. Visibility and accessibility to the right data are fundamental in managing supply chains. Cargo 2000 is currently reshaping itself and expectations are high that Cargo 2000 processes can raise transparency along the air logistics supply chain. Cargo 2000, done well, should also substantially reduce time spent managing irregularities reducing offloads and improving flown-as-booked performance. GHAs are keen to contribute to Cargo 2000 but they want to be sure that airlines do not use the system to put them under more pressure.