For another of the region’s cargo carriers Emirates SkyCargo, e-freight is already proving successful in supporting the carrier’s quest to streamline processes and reduce costs. “E-freight not only facilitates trade at a faster pace, but can save a huge amount of resources as well,” explains Niranjan Navaratnarajah, manager cargo systems and e-freight, Emirates Cargo. “If you look at the statistics, e-freight can eliminate around 7800 tonnes of paper documents per year, saving up to $5 billion in operational costs and that’s just for the airlines.”
The Dubai-based carrier takes great pride spearheading the e-freight agenda both regionally and globally. Earlier this year, Emirates SkyCargo completed an inaugural 100 per cent paperless freighter flight between Nairobi and Amsterdam, with the shipment of cut flowers processed entirely using its electronic system. At present, 67 of the 111 cities that the carrier serves are e-freight compliant including Singapore, London Heathrow, and the carrier’s own hub in Dubai.
As such a keen advocate for e-freight, Navaratnarajah emphasises that the principle behind its implementation is straightforward. “It is very similar to the e-ticketing concept,” he says. “Today you go to the airport with your passport and your bags, your ticket is already there – ten years ago it was a much longer paper-based process.” E-freight is based on the same principle, but instead it is the documentation of the cargo that is being electronically communicated.
“Nothing changes in the process – all you are doing is taking the paper out of the equation,” Navaratnarajah adds.
Both Gulf Air Cargo and Emirates SkyCargo believe that e-freight is set to become the industry standard. “People have realised that e-freight is the way forward and that all stakeholders have a role to play,” says Navaratnarajah. “In fact, we are probably driving one of the largest regions implementing e-freight.” IATA is doubtlessly pleased that it has the backing of some of the region’s leading carriers for its e-freight project. However, as one of the other major contributors to its potential success, is the region’s logistics industry demonstrating a similar level of commitment?
According to a global survey by FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations) and TIACA (The International Air Cargo Association) last year, whilst awareness of IATA’s e-freight project amongst freight forwarders was reasonably high, actual implementation was surprisingly low. To tackle this, FIATA has called for a joint collaboration with IATA to create a new cargo documentary and data flow driven by technology in order to improve the status of the airline-forwarder relationship.