E-freight progresses… slowly

During the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia Inc (CBFCA) inaugural International Trade & logistics Symposium (Stamford Plaza, Sydney Airport 3 June 2009),  Michael Bennett (GP Logistics and CBFCA Airfreight Convener) outlined progress of the IATA e-freight initiative.
Mr Bennett highlighted that while e-Freight has been in existence for several years, adoption was deferred in Australia during 2006 as Australia was still recovering from the flawed implementation of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Integrated Cargo System (ICS). During 2008, support was subsequently received from key stakeholders to progress the initiative with the formation of a Business Working Group (BWG) reporting to the e-freight Management Group (eFMG) ultimately leading to the successful first e-Freight consignment being sent from Australia on 21 October 2008.
Benefits of the scheme, as explained by Mr Bennett, include greater accuracy through efficient transfer of data and increased potential for ‘automation’, reduced paper-based logistics processes / costs, ‘paper free’ supporting ‘green’ environmental strategies, faster supply chain transit times (messaging before freight arrival), better tracking for real-time status, assist in meeting regulatory compliance for cargo reporting and declarations and increased security through the removal of document pouches. Importantly, it was stressed that Australian forwarders have a relatively low cost barrier to entry through existing sophisticated software solutions and the now established ICS supporting effective regulatory reporting.
Mr Bennett highlighted that while there have been some early adopters of e-Freight in Australia, the uptake has been extremely low. The CBFCA is looking for extra incentives and cost savings to be offered by airlines and operators to support the strategy of gaining a critical mass of e-Freight transactions. This was addressed in the context of a summary of existing barriers for e-freight including the fact that until sufficient trade lanes, airlines, consignees, consignors and forwarders are e-freight ready, benefits will be limited by an ongoing need for dual manual and electronic processes (noting that even those countries that are e-Freight ready, many are limited to some airports e.g. Australia currently limited to Sydney). Whilst it is recognised that the longer term benefits exist in following the initiative, in the current economic climate, forwarders may be tempted to delay implementation of e-Freight into their organisation until more tangible benefits can be measured.
Mr Bennett said the IATA and Qantas will be providing presentations during July 200,9 where further strategies to increase the uptake of e-Freight will be explained.
To access the full presentation (including a list of e-Freight documents, countries that are e-Freight ready, top 10 e-Freight locations by volume, early forwarder adopters of e-Freight and how to get involved), visit the CBFCA website at http://www.cbfca.com.au/, then click on ‘Events’ then on ‘Speaker Presentations’.

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