The transition to full electronic AWB (e-AWB) adoption is definitely going full speed ahead. That’s because the air waybill is considered the most important transportation document in air freight and e-AWB implementation can dramatically improve accuracy and accelerate processing times.
The e-AWB aims to simplify the air freight supply chain process by eliminating the need to print, process and archive paper documents. After signing the International Air Transport Association (IATA) multilateral e-AWB agreement and ensuring that systems are ready for e-AWB, airlines, and freight forwarders can perform e-AWB information exchanges with all other parties others involved in air cargo operations.
e-Air Waybill (e-AWB) Call to Action
The IATA aims to achieve 56 percent global penetration of the e-AWB initiative in 2016. The current figure stands at 37.2 percent. An important element of the success of the e-AWB initiative is the eAWB360 campaign, a “call to action” or publicity campaign that aims to achieve 100 percent implementation of the paperless air waybill process around the world. As part of eAWB360, IATA works with selected airports where the e-AWB standard operating procedure is already up and running. Each airport will serve as the primary dissemination center for e-AWB information to its partners.
The eAWB360 campaign is currently being rolled out at selected airports by a group of airlines. The first phase of the eAWB360 campaign has already started in Europe, and the second phase is now happening in North America. Through industry communication and engagement activities, the campaign aims to encourage freight forwarders to adopt e-AWB and help stakeholders at selected airports prepare for e-AWB.
The eAWB360 events in North America allows trade participants (freight forwarders, airline representatives, general sales agents (GSAs), associations, ground handling agents (GHAs) and others involved in air cargo operations) to come together, meet business partners and information technology (IT) firms, and be a part of the transition from paper AWB to e-AWB. The events are also opportunities for participants to connect with e-AWB solutions providers.
Participating Airlines in the Electronic Air Waybill Initiative
There are 16 participating airlines in the Americas:
Currently, 9 airports in North America have been selected to adopt the e-AWB initiative as the primary method of shipping air cargo.
In Canada, three airports were chosen by the industry for the eAWB360 campaign namely: Montreal (YUL), Toronto (YYZ), and Vancouver (YVR). The “Go Live” dates at all three airports are on June 1, 2016, while the launch session are on May 3, 2016, for Montreal, May 5, 2016, for Toronto, and May 19, 2016, for Vancouver. Therefore, Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is set to become the first airport to implement the eAWB360 campaign in Canada, followed by Toronto Pearson International and Vancouver International.
In the U.S., six airports were selected to participate in the eAWB360 campaign: New York (JFK), Dallas (DFW), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), and Atlanta (ATL). The "Go Live" dates are as follows: New York and Dallas on July 1, 2016, Chicago and Los Angeles on August 1, 2016, and Miami and Atlanta on September 1, 2016. The Launch sessions at different locations are New York on May 25, Dallas on June 2, Chicago in June (TBD), Los Angeles in July (TBD), Miami on August 2, and Atlanta on August 16.
Below is the schedule of eAWB360 launch events:
Benefits of eAWB360 in North America
Given that the Air Waybill is just one document, implementation and uptake are quite slow at many airports. As of March 2016, the IATA reports 31.7 percent e-AWB penetration in the U.S., with Atlanta airport having the highest actual penetration (50.20 percent) and Miami airport having the lowest (25.70 percent). These figures are below target, showing that barriers to e-AWB implementation are very real. These barriers include the lack of readiness by airlines as perceived by freight forwarders, perceived complexity of the e-AWB process for freight forwarders and ground handling agents that deal with several airlines, inadequate momentum despite collaborative efforts, and lack of coordinated approach. In addition, the learning curve is steep for freight forwarders who are used to paper documentation. Switching from paper to electronic data transmission is a big shift for many, and the process is complicated by the need to build EDI capabilities, back office systems, and direct connectivity.
The eAWB360 campaign in North America aims to discuss these concerns, build readiness for e-AWB at selected airports and encourage forwarders to adopt e-AWB. eAWB360 is a community-driven approach that encourages active participation and alignment with the 3 pillars of the eAWB360 campaign:
1. Single Process: Participating airlines commit to implementing Single Process
2. e-Airport SOP: Common e-AWB Standard Operating Procedures to be adopted by GHAs at e-Airports.
3. Communication: Organized and harmonized communication that e-AWB is the preferred method of air cargo shipment at e-Airports.
The eAWB360 events also help connect airlines, airports and stakeholders with technology partners. IT and logistics partners provide tools and infrastructure to prepare the community for e-AWB implementation. In addition to the eAWB360 campaign, the IATA has set new goals for 2016, including synchronization procedures across the industry, new tools and implementation guides to support the community, and improved cooperation with the authorities to encourage the opening of more commercial routes.
The Role of e-Air Waybill Service Providers
e-AWB solutions providers play an important role in the community's goal to reach 100 percent e-AWB adoption. e-AWB service providers help freight forwarders and cargo agents easily transit from paper AWB to e-AWB. Before transmitting e-AWB messages, participants must first sign the IATA multilateral e-AWB agreement with IATA to enter into e-AWB agreements with all parties. Participants must also have the technical capability to transmit, archive and print e-AWB messages and other required information.
The process typically requires the use of an electronic data interchange (EDI) to send and receive e-AWB messages in the appropriate Cargo-IMP or Cargo-XML format. In addition, e-AWB solutions providers also help freight forwarders and cargo agents connect directly to airlines and transmit e-AWB messages through an online portal with an intuitive interface. These online portals allow clients to create e-AWBs quickly, duplicate existing air waybills, and use templates to boost productivity.
e-AWB solutions from service providers also offer additional benefits to the community. These benefits include online portals are secure, and data is saved in the system for easy tracking; data comes directly from the cargo agent or the forwarder to ensure accuracy; and if you need to make changes to the information, you can do so in real-time until the cargo reaches the station; and last but not least, automatic checks also reduce the risk of entering inaccurate information.
e-AWB solutions also speed up the customs clearance process and allow clients transmit relevant information ahead of the cargo. And since e-AWB is completely paperless, customers can reduce costs associated with document processing, storage, and transportation, while improving the sustainability of their business.
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