Air Cargo Handling conference: Cargo handlers to discuss the industry in Bangkok

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Cargo handling will be in the spotlight when the 7th Air Cargo Handling (ACH) Conference takes place at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok from 1-3 September.

The conference will be held outside of Europe for the first time, in the heart of Thailand’s capital, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. This year, there will be scheduled one-to-one meetings, panel discussions, workshops and presentations, covering airport cargo operations and freight handling. Among the topics will be security, processes and technology, interfaces between cargo handlers, ramp handlers, customs authorities and other parts of the chain, emerging markets, and case studies on how to optimise efficiency.

On Tuesday, 1 September, working groups will take place discussing unit load device (ULD) management, IT messaging bottlenecks, electronic air waybill (eAWB) implementation case studies, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) pharma certificate and training, recruitment and people development programmes.
The last 12 months has been turbulent for cargo operators and the conference will discuss how the industry has performed. Hermes Cargo chief cargo officer, Steve Montgomery, tells Air Cargo Week (ACW) there has been positive change in the last 12 months despite the tough times with, “more investment in new systems, along with a slow move towards eAWB”. He feels other positive developments are the continuing push by the cargo operations advisory group (COAG) to standardise and move the industry forward. The central themes at this year’s conference, Montgomery expects, are best practices, eAWB and new technology that can be implemented and support the air cargo industry supply chain.

Conference sessions begin on Wednesday 2 September, after event chairman and Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) executive vice president for business development, John Batten, and chief moderator, Saudi Airlines Cargo vice president for operations, Chris Notter, welcome delegates.
Batten will then review the highlights and progress made in the industry since last year’s conference. He explains to ACW that nothing has changed in terms of outputs from the last ACH in Milan and asks the question, is it because the industry is slow to adopting change, or just nothing has been done? “Lets hope this conference gives us some more real hope that change is good and happening,” he explains.

Batten feels the handling community needs to get closer to the International Civil Aviation Organization and World Customs Organization following the progress with COAG. He adds: “But that said, can IATA change cargo or does the governance need to change in this dinosaur of a business?”

WFS chief executive officer and president, Olivier Bijaoui, will then join Batten for a review of air cargo handling in the last 12 months. They will discuss the latest industry developments and give their views on the last year.

In Batten’s view, the most interesting industry development is Swissport International being acquired by the HNA Group this month: “This closes the loop on the circle. It is been roughly 35 years of fighting for independence and now this happens.” He also questions if it is the last chance for change, and warns if the industry does not adapt, the new e-commerce platform will go to integrators, as airlines are slow to move.

After Batten and Bijaoui speak, a presentation will be given by ULD Care president, Urs Wiesendanger, about the latest ULDs, and the latest technology developments in the marketplace.
Following this will be a review of COAG by Bangkok Flight Services general manager for cargo, David Ambridge, and IATA’s manager for cargo and mail operations and standards, Andre Majeres. They will discuss the tasks, challenges and the progress made by COAG over the past 12 months. IATA established COAG in 2012 to bring together members from airlines and ground handlers to attend to concerns on cargo operations.

Batten explains to ACW that he is looking forward to what COAG reports, and discussing whether the industry will ever take forward initiatives that have been introduced and whether technology will be applied for the good. The first conference session will be Emerging from the crisis: The changing needs of airlines. A panel comprising of Cathay Pacific Cargo general manager for cargo services, Alan Glen, Turkish Airlines Cargo vice president of cargo operations, Serdar Demir, and Etihad Cargo head of cargo handling, Robert Fordree, will look at whether airlines’ handling needs have changed post the financial crisis, what their priorities are and how well cargo handlers are fulfilling them. The operational challenges of e-freight and eAWB will also be under scrutiny and how cargo handlers can help support eAWB implementation.

After lunch is a session called Handling change, which will be led by LUG air cargo handling managing director, Patrik Tschirch (pictured below). He will look into what handlers have changed in the last year to help meet their customers’ needs and how efficiency and productivity have been improved.

Tschirch tells ACW the recent acquisitions in the industry of Swissport and Fraport Cargo Services creates an environment for independent, national, small and medium sized enterprises like LUG, that is “even more demanding”. Tschirch adds: “Many airlines still individually tender, negotiate and manage contracts for each station. In addition, the trend among airlines to outsource more and more operational processes, except sales, continues,” .

Tschirch feels that the air cargo handling sector has continued to improve productivity and efficiency in response to cost pressures, although there has been no, “spectacular innovations”.