Danger signs

posted on 9th April 2019
Danger signs

IATA’s latest shipper survey highlights a surprising lack of DG awareness among customers in the transport of e-commerce products, reports Donald Urquhart

IATA’s latest Shipper Survey turned up an alarming result, with 40% of respondents saying they are unaware of dangerous goods regulations pertaining to the transport of e-commerce products.

“That is an alarming figure considering e-commerce is effectively enabling millions of small shippers to open up new markets,” says Glyn Hughes, global head of cargo at IATA.

Michael Steen, EVP and chief commercial officer for Atlas Air Worldwide, says: “We should be extremely concerned about it.”

Catastrophic consequences

Steen notes that the consequences of undeclared dangerous goods DG such as lithium batteries on board an aircraft can be “catastrophic in nature – and that can’t be allowed to happen”.

An Atlas Air B767 cargo aircraft operating on behalf of Amazon flying from Miami to Houston in February crashed just east of Houston, with the loss of all three crewmembers, although the cause of the crash has not yet been established.

Steen adds that one thing that should be done on a global basis “is to criminalise anybody who is trying to put any form of cargo on an aircraft that is unsafe and hasn’t been declared properly. There has to be criminal punishment for that because you are jeopardising people’s lives,” Steen adds.

This year’s IATA Shipper Survey saw over 400 responses from individuals and companies representing almost the entire breadth of the industries that use air cargo.

Green shoots

The survey did contain some positive notes, with some 52% of respondents foreseeing using more air cargo in 2019 than in 2018. “So, there are some optimistic green shoots we need to embrace,” adds Hughes.

And overall, 16% said they were ‘very happy’ with air cargo while, 8% indicated they were ‘very unhappy’ with the air cargo services they received. Overall the industry was given a grade of 7/10 – the same score the industry received two years ago after the first round of surveys.

And on combatting shipment of illegal items, 83% of respondents said they are ready to sign a code of conduct to combat counterfeits, illegal wildlife trade, and illegal narcotics. This shows a high ethical approach to social responsibility, Hughes says, noting that he would like to see that translated into supply chain partnerships

Cargo priorities

Hughes adds that this year will see continued engagement over key issues like digitalisation, engagement with international trade and development bodies, efforts to attract the next generation of air cargo leaders, and e-commerce related aspects like lithium batteries.

“We as an industry have taken this on board and have an outreach programme for dangerous goods; and our safety team are engaging with a number of platform providers encourage them to do more and make the message far reaching.”

Hughes notes that the IATA Cargo team has been working over the last 12 months with governments around the world, battery manufacturers and suppliers throughout the supply chain in a collaborative fashion, “to ensure that the issues that this industry has highlighted reach the ears of those who can actually make the changes that are required.”

Goh Choon Phong, CEO of Singapore Airlines, notes that when lithium batteries are “manufactured, packaged, presented and tendered in accordance with international regulations, they are safe to transport”.

Hughes agrees, adding that “the challenge we have as an industry is to work with regulators so that they can actually identify rogue shippers and manufacturers who are not in compliance with international standards and ensure that they do not get into the supply chain in the first place.

“It’s a global consumer risk and it’s one that we in the supply chain are working with governments to try and eradicate,” Hughes concludes.