Caspian Air Cargo Summit: Industry must prepare for future growth

By Rachelle Harry

IATA head of cargo Glyn Hughes has called on the air cargo industry to “apply equal vigour” to all the “challenges and opportunities” currently faced by the industry.

Speaking at the Caspain Air Cargo Summit in a global market outlook session, Hughes gave an overview of the tough market conditions that the industry currently faces, but also outlined opportunities.

Speaking on the China-US trade war, he warned the situation could potentially get worse. Brexit could also pile on extra pressure, he explained.

“Both countries [the US and China] are saying that if nothing concrete is resolved from talks this week, then further tariffs will be added,” Hughes said.

Hughes pointed out that the US has imposed tariffs that are three times higher in value terms, compared with China.

Hughes also drew attention to the risk of recession, as well as revealing that “hundreds of billions of dollars could be lost from GDP” in the aftermath of Brexit, of which the terms still remain uncertain.

However, there are also positive developments.

The booming e-commerce sector has the power to positively impact the market, he said.

However, he cautioned that “one size does not fit all” in terms of methodology and companies’ individual capabilities of driving the industry forward.

Hughes urged industry professionals to prepare now for anticipated growth by being quick to embrace digitalisation.

“Today, we [in the industry] still rely a lot on paper and we dabble in technology,” he explained. “But when you look at the projections and see that cargo volumes are expected to double over the next 20 years, we have to ask ourselves: are we ready for this? Are we thinking about those volumes now, rather than it happening and us saying that we didn’t act quick enough?

“The industry has to now start preparing by looking to advanced automation, robotics, the use of data, artificial intelligence – every technological opportunity will have to be embraced today in order to cope with the demands of tomorrow.”

Hughes concluded by revealing that IATA will release new initiatives to create awareness about dangerous counterfeit lithium batteries, including a tool to report incidents when they are moved along the supply chain.

“This is absolutely critical concern,” he said. “Every week we are being made of a new incident somewhere in the world.”

The Caspian Air Cargo Summit took place in Baku on October 8 and 9.

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