Among the many experts on hand at the TIACA Air Cargo Forum in Toronto in October are three panelists who also addressed air cargo issues at Cargo Logistics Canada in Vancouver earlier this year: Pascal Bélanger, Vice-President & Chief Commercial Officer at Winnipeg Airports Authority, Warren Jones, Executive Director, TIACA and Ruth Snowden, Executive Director, Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA). The panel was moderated by CIFFA’s Public Affairs Manager Julia Kuzeljevich. The following are the key takeaways.
Airports and their role in attracting more cargo business
Bélanger: If you have the right setup and you’re able to accommodate this growing demand, smaller communities can play a role as well. I look at airports that have done really well for themselves — they have had the vision, priority and infrastructure to move the cargo, and I would say the mindset from the airport operator’s perspective. Cargo needs to be a priority for those who are serious about it. But if you’re looking at it from a straight accounting perspective, your money’s on the passenger side all day long.
Airfreight Capacity: a tight squeeze
Snowden: When you look at the data, freight forwarders are tendering a percentage of cargo somewhere in the mid 90’s. Some 94–96% of air cargo is orchestrated by an international freight forwarder, so certainly during the fall and into 2018 capacity was very tight. Our airfreight members were telling us that there was just no forecasting. The retailers didn’t know what was coming, the pharma guys didn’t know what was coming and it caused a lot of stress. In November, forwarders were booking from Asia to Toronto/Chicago upper deck cargo capacity for February-you just couldn’t get it. This causes a lot of strain-with high demand, considerable volatility and low supply, costs are going up.
Disintermediation and the freight forwarder
Snowden: The shipper absolutely wants more transparency and the forwarders who are going to survive are providing that transparency. The international freight forwarder is highly trained, makes routing decisions based on the cargo. Everybody says forwarders are going to be dis-intermediated because you can go online and get a rate, well, good luck with that. Is it the right carrier, is it the right departure, does the cargo fit, is your cargo ready for carriage, does your cargo have any kind of dangerous goods, is it meeting air cargo security requirements, who is going to dispatch the pickup, how many trucks are you going to have lining up at the airport, at the warehouse on a Friday night if everybody dispatches their own truck and there’s no consolidation capabilities, and if there is no forwarder intervention? I believe 100%-small and medium sized forwarders are going to have to step up to the technology and use those solutions that are available but this whole discussion about disintermediation is premature and I don’t think it’s a valid argument.
What do we need to do to ensure that the future workforce in the air cargo sector has what they need to know to work in this field?
Jones: I would tell them about the field first. I was very fortunate to be a college professor in Georgia teaching Introduction to Aviation, Transportation and Logistics, stuff like that. And I had about 40 students in the class, and none of them were aviation majors. The next generation, they’re not thinking about this. We’ve got to start getting the word out it’s not just about flying an airplane. Air cargo is consistent, well-paid work and we as an industry have got to create internships. There are not enough of them. We have to attract young, educated professionals to the industry and then provide additional learning opportunities.