AIS reduces delays for air cargo at Heathrow

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CCS-UK User Group chairman, Steve Parker

CCS-UK User Group’s Advance Information System (AIS) module is transforming air cargo deliveries at Heathrow Airport and reducing trucking delays.

Peak-time delays at Heathrow’s cargo terminal are well-documented with a lack of on-airport parking, narrow approach roads and tight manoeuvring space leading to long queues backing up onto the perimeter road.

Two years ago, the body representing all users of the UK’s air cargo community computer system started working on a new module to enable freight agents and transport companies working on their behalf to pre-alert handling agents of loads being delivered and picked up, down to House AWB level, as well as submit Electronic Consignment Security Declarations (e-CSD).

The advance information, including vehicle, driver, cargo being delivered, handling agent and estimated time of arrival would be submitted either through a web portal or messages sent direct from the forwarder’s own system.

By receiving this information electronically in advance, the handlers would have shipment information to reduce paperwork and delays on arrival, and eradicating re-keying errors.

Advance notice of cargo en route would enable handlers to anticipate workloads, schedule resources and allocate handling slots for trucks, reducing the number of vehicles at the cargo terminal.

AIS has been live for a year and is being used by a growing number of hauliers, handlers and forwarders.

One early adopter is Mixed Freight Services, which has suffered significant delays in recent years including one trailer being turned away five times in one weekend due to the handlers’ inability to cope with the volume of trucks and their warehouse being at capacity.

Mixed Freight Services director, Steve O’Keeffe says the company cannot change Heathrow’s infrastructure so it is focused on capacity management.

He says: “AIS is enabling us to work more efficiently with the ground handlers; we screen the cargo, submit the e-CSD and manifest to the handler, and then deliver. It has dramatically simplified and streamlined our process, giving the handler visibility of pending export cargo which is security screened and ready for delivery.”

dnata, which has seven facilities located away from the most congested on-airport areas, was involved in the concept and design of AIS, and has reported reductions in dwell times for 75 per cent of vehicles processed.

Business systems manager, Lawrence Cockburn says: “Agents and truckers who use AIS can take advantage of our “Blue Lane”, giving them priority over all other vehicles, regardless of the order in which they arrived.”

CCS-UK User Group chairman, Steve Parker says: “All AIS requires is a modest change to ways of working. It’s hard to understand why many are still holding back, as AIS is free of charge, and its widespread adoption will help everyone in the community.

“With the uncertainties surrounding Brexit around the corner, leading to the possibility of more complex procedures and even dramatic increases in traffic, now is the time to take all possible steps to streamline the UK’s air cargo industry, which will become an even more vital trading tool. So, we hope the success of AIS to date will inspire much greater take-up in the next few months.”