Looking back – and ahead

March 16, 1983, saw the launch of a new title covering the airfreight industry: the fortnightly Air Cargo News International.

The publication was the brainchild of Ray Crane and Nigel Tomkins, who developed the idea for an air cargo newspaper after meeting at a rugby match.

Much has changed over the intervening 40 years. But as current Air Cargo News (ACN) deputy editor Rebecca Jeffrey and I cast our eyes over the main stories of the past four decades, we also found that much has stayed the same.

Of the major changes, probably the biggest has been the continued globalisation of the airfreight industry.

A perfect example is that of the integrators. In the early 1980s, the likes of FedEx and UPS were tentatively setting up operations in Europe – fast forward 40 years and they are global behemoths with operations all over the world.

The other major development in air cargo has been the rise of digitalisation as the internet age has been ushered in. However, I was surprised at how many stories the publication carried about computerisation, as it was known back then, in the early 1980s.

The third issue of ACN featured the headline “Into the computer age” and centred on forwarder Jardine’s £1m investment in a computer system.

Another change we noted has been the impact of air cargo on global warming.

The topic didn’t really start making the headlines until the 2000s – and even then it was viewed by many as more of a worry for regulatory and marketing teams.

Now, emissions are taken very seriously throughout the industry as vast sums of money are invested in tackling the problem.

Safety and security is another area that has grown in importance over the past 40 years, after a spate of terrorist attacks, lithium battery incidents and aircraft accidents.

Other topics that we continue to write about today that featured in the early days of ACN include mergers and acquisitions, congestion at airports, financial performance, bankruptcy, high rates, low rates, demand peaks, demand troughs, cartel cases, air cargo’s lack of recognition, slow progress of digitalisation, corruption, modal shift, manufacturing trends… I could go on.

I was also surprised to see ACN highlight the lack of gender diversity in one of the first issues. An interview with a high-flying female freight forwarder, Shirley Lavis of Samfreight, outlined the issues she faced in making her way in a male-dominated industry.

That said, there was a tendency in the early days of the publication to describe how the women being interviewed looked (“model-like height and figure” is one example) and the inclusion of scantily clad women in some of the adverts from the period (don’t worry, I won’t name names) undermined those efforts. Different times.

Just as the industry has changed, so too has ACN. The publication started as a fortnightly newspaper but has since evolved into a multimedia platform. The ACN website is updated on a daily basis, there are twice-weekly news bulletins, a monthly in-depth email, a print magazine, video content and social media accounts across the major platforms.

International flavour

In the past few years, the frequency of the print product has reduced from fortnightly to first monthly and now quarterly to reflect the changing habits of our readers, who increasingly consume their news through our digital platforms.

The other notable change is the scope of coverage. ACN in the early days focused largely on the UK market.

Today, ACN is a truly international publication keeping readers up to date with news from across the globe daily.

Looking to the future, it’s hard to predict where air cargo and ACN will be in 2063 –perhaps we will be beaming news automatically generated by artificial intelligence straight to our readers’ minds, while cargo will be moved across the world by huge drones, unloaded by robots and then transported by self-driving vehicles.

Let’s hope not, as what really sets this industry apart is the people that utilise their market knowledge and work hard to keep cargo moving, no matter the circumstance.

Whatever the future holds, I hope ACN will still be around and doing what it has done for the past four decades: keeping our readers informed about all the latest developments in air cargo.

Damian Brett, editor, Air Cargo News

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]