Rhine-Main Airport operator, Fraport AG is developing a digital platform for cargo imports in cooperation with industrial partners. The tool is called FRA-OS and, once operational, it will be instrumental in speeding up, simplifying, and standardizing customs and handling processes for general cargo arriving in Frankfurt. FRA-OS is expected to be operational by latest 31JUL21.
Too slow, too bureaucratic, way too expensive, and too pedantic in handling and securing shipments, topped by slow customs procedures: These are repeatedly heard complaints from forwarders or shippers, when freight experts talk about Rhine-Main Airport. However, the wind could soon turn, at the latest by AUG21, when a new customs regulation comes into force, making automated data exchange between all parties involved in the import of air freight mandatory.
Data insufficiencies cause delays – and anger!
Fraport has been late to react, but hopefully not too late, recognizing the shortcomings, and emphasizing its determination to eliminate them the faster the better.
Max Philipp Conrady, Head of Cargo Infrastructure and Development at Fraport AG, freely admits when approached by CargoForwarder Global, that there are problems caused by data deficiencies, leading to repeated customs interventions: “Sometimes, the shipment data is incomplete, precise product information is missing or the description of the specific contents of consignments is imprecise,” states the manager. These and other issues such as the offloading of part shipments at other airports that are not reported, cause data opacity, alarming customs officials. Hence, its squad of watchdogs releases an objected consignment only after its contents have been thoroughly checked. This costs time and annoys the recipient. “I expect our upcoming FRA-OS platform to provide precise shipment tracking data within the premises of our airport. Together with the correct and complete shipment data provided by the forwarder directly to the customs’ own ATLAS-System, it will make it much easier for our local customs people to decide which item they want to inspect personally, and which import they can simply rubber-stamp.” That said, he adds: “So, what is needed is precise 1-to-1 referencing of imported goods down to house air waybill level (HAWB) or even piece-level. The more precise the data entries are, the faster and smoother the customs processes will be, and no delays or hiccups will occur.”
Forwarding agents benefit from the new scheme
Mr. Conrady mentions the trigger to set up and invest in the FRA-OS import platform: “In future, forwarding agents can store and present the goods to the customs at their on-airport facilities, a job done so far mostly by local cargo handling agents, who would not have sufficient space in their facilities to store entire pallets or many loose items to comply with upcoming enforcement of customs regulations.” This shift of responsibilities will be another benefit enabled by the platform, especially for general cargo products, which is becoming increasingly important due to the avalanche of e-commerce imports.
Open for external players
Since the new digital data transmission tool is conceived as a modular platform, additional applications can be integrated; for instance, an app for perishables or one for express goods. FRA-OS also will offer interfaces allowing the linking with external cargo management service providers such as Riege Software, Sita’s Champ Cargosystems, or Hermes Logistics Technologies. In addition to imports, “exports are another field we have identified for enhancing and enlarging our data exchange platform, so is the field of ramp control. There are many options which we intend to create, this way growing our ‘FRA Operating System’, giving Frankfurt Airport a constant tailwind to steadily drive improvements,” states Mr. Conrady.
Asked about the costs, he emphasizes that he is extremely grateful that Rhine-Main’s top management gave the green light to the financing of the platform. “In dire times like these in which we are losing a lot of money, this decision by our top management is highly significant, and an appreciated sign of support for the airport’s cargo business, our customers, and all employees.”
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