By Gerry Burgin
I have recently been very active yet again in trying to further the cause of e-Air Waybill (e-AWB).
My interest in this subject began in the late 1980s when, as Managing Director of Trans Global Air Ltd (from October 1978-1995 ), I directed my team to link up with British Airways and then became the very first in the world to transmit mainframe (host-to-host) – successfully a Freight Waybill (FWB) message and accept a freight status update (FSU) response. This unbelievably was in July 1993.
Twenty-five years ago – and I have press coverage evidence to support this claim.
This was followed closely by successes with KLM and then Traxon, which included Lufthansa, Air France, Cargolux, JAL, and others.
The progress since then has dragged on very slowly and even now uptake on agreed trade lanes has only just climbed to over 50 per cent – mainly because of the multinationals’ interest (in which I was very much involved as a consultant) and in certain areas in the world where use of e-AWB has been mandated and/or strictly encouraged.
We need to look at why this situation exists, particularly as e-commerce as we all know has taken off in a very big way affecting most people’s way of life.
The SMEs and there are hundreds of them in the UK alone – and many thousands globally rely on software houses to produce the software and interfaces with the airlines.
The software providers are not happy to write in both a version of Cargo-IMP and XML. There is no uniform platform – 17 versions of 40-year-old legacy system Cargo-IMP, which is now “not fit-for-purpose”, and the future F-XML, and not many, if any, airlines up to speed with this protocol.
Add to this the prohibitive costs for F-XML manuals and yearly licence fees and you have a real problem for smaller users and their software providers.
Then agents face the problem that although IATA and the airlines signed up to an agreement (eAWB360) that they would acknowledge receipt of agents’ FWBs with either an acceptance message or a rejection message (FMA or FNA).
This has not happened – agents would obviously be reluctant to deliver to an airline or appointed GHA without the knowledge that their FWB was received and acceptable.
- Agree a common platform which is acceptable to the agents and after an agreed period drop support for Cargo-Imp and if necessary XML if there is a better-simplified and cost-effective alternative.
- Include both GSAs and GHAs in the messaging system.
- Airlines to assist their customers to make sure the messages are of sufficient quality-highlight errors in messaging and if necessary charge a CCA for agents not performing after repeated advice on errors.
- Educate agents globally to understand that the world is changing rapidly – ready for carriage used to mean completing a good quality paper AWB but now with over 50 countries and increasing – demanding advanced information before ”wheels up” should now mean sending an acceptable quality FWB message to the carrier and delivering properly labelled packages.
e-AWB is only the start of the process. We need to also be able to receive all other documentation electronically – including, shipper’s invoices & packing lists, required certificates such as origin, SITES, licences, security declarations, etc.
We need with even more competition coming on stream from the likes of Amazon and Ali- Baba to move with times and we need to do it now!
See www.gerryburgin.com for Gerry Burgin’s career history.
(This year marks 58 years in the business)