Exclusive - European Shippers Insist on Further Digitalisation

Supporting digitalisation of air transport documents remains a top priority for the shippers, says the European Shippers’ Council (ESC). The umbrella organisation has warned that Europe is lagging behind in the implementation of the E-AWB.

European Shippers want the bag for cargo documents accompanying shipments to stay empty in future  -  picture: ms
European Shippers want the bag for cargo documents accompanying shipments to stay empty in future - picture: ms

ESC has reminded its members of the fact that IATA last year missed its target (56%) for the implementation of the electronic air waybill (E-AWB) by some 10% because large parts of the freight forwarding industry are still sticking to hard copy paper. However, the implementation has been steadily growing between 1.5% – 2% each month in 2016.

Because of this steady growth in implementation, the level of 62 % will be maintained.

According to the European shippers, Full implementation has proved difficult because of the number of parties involved in the processing of an air waybill. “Furthermore, there are technological limitations with numerous and often incompatible IT systems in use. Above all, there is still regulation in place which calls for hard copy paper to be produced as evidence of a contract between parties,” ESC says in a statement.

Middle East is top performer
There are variations across the different parties and regions on E-AWB implementation. In October, the top performer was the Middle East with 68%. Europe was lagging behind with 34%, Americas 40% and Asia Pacific 45%.


ESC thinks that these three regions are lagging behind due to the old legacy sys-tems and older IT infrastructure used by many air cargo operators, while the Middle East has adopted much newer infrastructure and processes. As for the highest pen-etration of E-AWB, Hong Kong is the top performer of any airport, Cathay Pacific as an airline and DHL Global Forwarding as a freight forwarder.

Freight forwarders must be pushed into using E-AWB
ESC therefore insists that shippers should keep on pushing their freight forwarders to maximize the utilization of E-AWB even in situations where the shipment has to be split in order to ship part of it under the electronic document processing and the other part under paper processing.” Eventually the implementation of an E-AWB leads to a further digitalization of the supply chain and more transparency in the air freight operations for shippers,” ESC claims.

Freight forwarders should be reminded that the Single Process system developed by IATA allows them to send documentation fully electronically and the carrier supplies paper bills on necessary lanes.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

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