The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday called on governments and air cargo industry to accelerate the speed of modernisation and implement global standards to accommodate the expanding demand for air cargo.
The call came during the opening address by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO, at the 13th World Cargo Symposium.
The operating environment for air cargo is increasingly challenging, he said. Demand for air cargo grew by 3.5 per cent in 2018, a significant deceleration from 2017 which saw extraordinary growth of 9.7 per cent.
Weakening global trade, sagging consumer confidence and geopolitical headwinds contributed to a general slowdown in demand growth commencing in mid-2018. And January 2019 saw a year-on-year contraction of 1.8 per cent.
de Juniac called for the modernisation of industry processes. "This will be critical to efficiently meet the doubling of demand expected over the next two decades. And it is already being called for by customers of the industry's most promising growth markets -- e-commerce and the transport of time-and temperature-sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals and perishables."
He called for faster progress on the digitisation of the supply chain and more effective use of data to drive improvements in operational quality. IATA also called for modernisation of air cargo facilities. "The e-commerce world is looking for fully automated high-rack warehouses, with autonomous green vehicles navigating through the facility, and employees equipped with artificial intelligence and augmented reality tools. The average cargo warehouse today is an impressive sight. But there is a huge gap to fill," said de Juniac.
"The problem is not technology. The problem is the speed to market. It's exceptionally tough to drive change in a global industry with a huge number of stakeholders where safety is top priority. But it is not mission impossible. I challenge stakeholders to find ways to drive critical change at the speed our customers expect," said de Juniac.
IATA urged governments to ensure that global standards are consistently implemented and enforced when necessary.
The global body of major airlines also urged governments to keep borders open to trade. "Protectionism, trade friction, Brexit and anti-globalisation rhetoric are part of a genre of developments that pose real risk to our business and broadly across the economies of the world," said de Juniac.
"We need to be a strong voice reminding governments that the work of aviation -- including air cargo -- is critically important. Trade generates prosperity. And there are no long-term winners from trade wars or protectionist measures," he said.
IATA represents some 280 airlines comprising 83 per cent of global air traffic.
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