IATA will be underscoring the value of air cargo for the wider economy during the annual general meeting here in Beijing as it looks to raise the profile of this sector of the industry.
"One of the messages is to recognise that air cargo is a great driver of global trade," says IATA global head of cargo Desmond Vertannes, noting the sector handles $5.3 trillion worth of goods a year. "People have to understand how precious it is. When it is worth $5.3 trillion and growing, you have to look at the infrastructure."
One of the key targets for IATA is to speed up the adoption of e-freight. "On the e-commerce side, we have a target to go paperless by the end of 2015, at least in the countries where we are allowed to do e-trading," he says. "Security has been added to safety as the number one priority; providing data to the state has become essential," he says. "The whole world of e-commerce has to be accelerated so we can improve the efficiency, and for compliance with the regulators."
Change in the sector has been difficult to implement quickly, partly because airlines have had so many challenges over the last decade that they do not have much free capital left to invest in air cargo technology, but also because airlines only form part of the air cargo chain.
"IATA, under the new director general, is very pro an industry collaborative approach. It doesn't need to be led by IATA," says Vertannes. He believes the timing is right to press for change, especially through the global advisory group it has formed with other associations. "You have the entire supply chain pursuing these goals," he says.
One bonus for the industry is the recent EU-USA deal to recognise each other's cargo security programmes. The agreement between the European Commission and the US Transportation Security Administration is the culmination of seven years of effort by regulators and industry stakeholders to achieve the alignment of air cargo security measures. Under the deal, the USA and EU will recognise the equivalence and effectiveness of each other's cargo security regimes.