Air cargo continues its move from “Me” to “Us”

At the World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi today, host IATA announced the launch of the IATA Cargo Handling Manual, “to help airlines and cargo handlers work together more effectively while improving safety and efficiency in air cargo operations.”

IATA sees the manual as part of “the air cargo industry’s efforts to transform itself through improving processes and simplifying the business.” It may well be part of that effort, but it is also a continuation of the industry’s recognition of itself as an industry, rather than just a collection of competing companies within an industry.

This transformation has so far manifested itself in the formation of cargo communities at airports, and also in the acceptance of formal standards, like IATA’s CEIV Pharma, that apply across the entire supply chain, rather than just to individual companies, or companies within certain categories (airlines, or airports, or handlers, or road feeder services).

We have not yet seen a full copy of the Cargo Handling Manual, but IATA says it will be “the first complete set of standards covering the operational activities of all stakeholders in the cargo handling supply chain.” Further, and to the point made above regarding the need for internal cooperation in the industry, IATA said the manual was developed in consultation with both carriers and handlers. So, rather than trying to impose standards developed by one group on the other group, the goal here seems to be much the same as was the case with the CEIV Pharma program: to offer shippers (the ultimate customer) reassurance that their shipments will be handled properly through the whole chain.

Given that the cargo community approach and the CEIV certification initiative appear to have helped the modal shift pendulum swing back toward air from ocean in the last two years, the Cargo Handling Manual may offer our industry one more way to show our customers that air can be the right choice.

If you are interested in learning more about the impact of the cargo community idea, join us at Cargo Facts Asia in Shanghai, 25 – 26 April, where IATA Assistant Director Ronald Schaefer, will take part in a session titled “Airport Evolution: The Rise of Air Cargo Communities.” To register, or for more information, go to

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