The new voice of air cargo
15 / 07 / 2015
One of the criticisms that has been made in the past of TIACA, the International Air Cargo Association, is that it is something of a US-European club. If there was any truth in that accusation, the appointment of Sanjiv Edward as its new chairman at the TIACA annual general meeting on May 21 should put that to rest.
Edward is not the first Asian chairman – Ram Menen is an obvious forerunner – but he does bring a fresh perspective to the organisation.
“One of my goals is to make TIACA see beyond the US and Europe,” he says. “Oliver Evans made a visit to India and Asia and my taking over shows TIACA’s willingness to embrace the world.
”As head of cargo business at Delhi International Airport since 2009, and before that for two years general manager commercial for the same entity, he does also look at the industry from a different angle, though he also stresses his range of experience.
“Before that I was with British Airways for ten years and so I have seen the industry from both sides. I have talked to regulators from the airline side and also from the airport side, from the custodian and operator side,” he says.
As an example of how issues might look different from an Asian perspective, he cites Customs simplification.
“If you look at mature markets such as Europe and the US then 24– hour Customs is taken for granted.
“But in India it was only launched a year back and there has been a huge challenge to get it implemented.
“We need to take the best practice from the US and Europe and apply it here. There are benefits to everyone from this because 50% of our throughput is exports, so changes here affect the whole supply chain.
”He says one of the things TIACA is trying to learn is how to be relevant to regional markets in this way. But on the other hand he also stresses that many issues are uniform across the world.
The work TIACA does in talking to major global regulators is one example. Edward has been involved with TIACA since 2009 and asked to pinpoint what has been its biggest achievement over that time, he cites advocacy on behalf of the industry, particularly with the US authorities but also elsewhere.
“Our people are now on many of the working groups – of the Transportation Security Admin-istration (TSA), the European Union, the World Customs Organisation (WCO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“Whenever things of significance to air cargo are happening they are listened to.
“At the recent Seoul Air Cargo Forum, the secretary general of ICAO and of the WCO and the administrator of the TSA all attended events. ICAO even attended board meetings. That shows you how seriously we are taken these days.
”There is still a slight confusion about which body is supposed to be the voice of air cargo, however.
Remember GACAG, the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group? That brought together TIACA, IATA, FIATA and the Global Shipper’s Forum and according to its website is “the unified voice of air cargo”, but Edward is somewhat vague about what it is up to these days.
“We took an active part in it when it was set up, and led it for the first two years, but now, as planned, leadership has passed to IATA,” he says, when asked about its role in the advocacy process.
“We will continue to be involved in it and I am told that IATA is looking at having a group consolidation.
”Another problem, perhaps, is that a lot of TIACA’s work is detailed and behind the scenes. For example it is working with the WCO on global standards for Customs and with various governments on advanced data for security.
Neither one pro-duces headline-grabbing changes, but as Edward points out, “if we can address these we can bring great efficiencies to the supply chain”.
One area that might seem more wholly within TIACA’s remit is e-freight. Edward sees this as part of an even larger goal – to drive the greater use of technology in all areas of airfreight.
He agrees that part of the organisation’s role should be to drive that. “This industry needs to change and to change fast,” he says. “We need to embrace technology as quickly as possible.
”What exactly it can do to help is something he is currently thinking about.
“One idea is to have joint industry working groups where different stakeholders are present, and industry groups that can dig deeper into the subject and look at bottlenecks,” he says.
“We also very emphatically need to engage with regulators to see what needs to be done for e-freight to work effectively. And we also have a role evaluating technology to see what works.
”On his home patch he actually has plenty of positive news in this respect.
“I can say from working with them that Indian Customs are very willing to hear about best practice from other parts of the world. “We are talking to them about a single window project that would be like Smartgate at Schiphol and they are very open to change.
”He adds that Delhi was the first airport in India to be certified by IATA as e-freight compliant.
“Now other airports in India have followed. So far it has been an airport initiative, but we are now getting together with government and Customs and they are very keen to support us.
”Another priority for TIACA is to build membership.
Edward credits his predecessors with doing a great job in this area, but says there is more to do. He declines to identify any particular target group, however.
“We have a very balanced membership from forwarders to airlines to terminal operators and we are looking to grow all of them,” he says.“We will continue to engage in all geographical regions too. We want to engage globally with air freight.
”Training is another key focus area. Edward points out that TIACA has three pillars – networking (the Air Cargo Forum essentially), advocacy and knowledge.
“The knowledge part is training. We have a three day course for the development of air cargo professionals.
“One has taken place in Johannesburg, another in Cologne in June, and one is scheduled for Honolulu in October.
”The course is aimed at junior to middle managers and aims to give them an overview of the industry.
“People often get too caught up in a vertical, in a particular stream. So this course shows them the whole business and looks at how to manage it – marketing, development management, leading the team and so forth. Feedback has been excellent and both Hong Kong and Johannesburg have requested a repeat.
”All of this is part of developing a next generation of air cargo leaders which has been a source of concern to the old guard currently retiring. But Edward himself is proof that there are new leaders prepared to step forward.
“In my personal view we have some very intelligent people in this industry in the next generation and we need to complement this with the experience of the older generation,” he says.
“I think that there will be lots of volunteers to take up TIACA posts from the younger generation. When they see the value from contributing and the results from what TIACA does, they will come forward.”