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What the industry can learn from BRUcloud, the open community technology platform used at Brussels airport

Could a new app be a taste of the way our industry uses technology in the future?


Brussels airport has already had a great deal of success with its BRUcloud open community platform in recent years – and it seems that freight forwarders at the airport are now embracing the cutting edge data-sharing technology to develop new solutions to old problems.


Industry backing

The Customs Export Application was strongly supported by Air Cargo Belgium (ACB) – who represent the country’s air cargo community – and with the advantages it delivers it’s clear to see why the technology has been given the industry body’s backing. The app matches collected manifest data (both from the freight forwarders themselves and existing data that is available within the BRUcloud system) and then automatically reports complete and accurate information to customs. The new technology saves time on all sides – particularly in terms of the amount of time processing air waybills. Customs have also agreed to clear shipments handled via the app first, providing yet another opportunity to speed up processes for all stakeholders.


A shared approach

A real key to the success of the app has been the collaborative approach taken by all parties – both in terms of the development of the Customs Export Application and its subsequent roll out.


“This collaboratively created app results in a lower administrative burden for all the parties,” says Bart Vleugels, who is advisory general at the Federal Public Service of Finance, Customs and Excise Duties. “Digitization within BRUcargo will further lower the chances of errors and will help to drastically decrease lead times.”


Freight forwarders have certainly bought in to the new technology, with 90 per cent of the air freight passing through BRUcargo now using the app.


Industry best practice

Ignazio Coraci comments: “The industry can learn a huge amount from the great work done at BRUcargo, not just in terms of the technology itself and its application, but also in the collaborative approach taken to its development by everyone involved. This kind of open cooperation between stakeholders is a model for similar projects.”

Hong Kong sees a surge in growth for first half of 2017

It has been a truly impressive start to the year for Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), with growth in traffic right across the board. In terms of air cargo business, HKIA has handled an impressive 2.3 million tonnes of cargo already this year in the first six months to June – that’s up a remarkable 11.3% on the same period last year.

Booming exports

So what has been behind HKIA’s great start to the year – and more importantly, do the experts think it will be sustained? Well, in the latest figures from June, 410,000 tonnes of cargo passed through the airport, up 11.4% on 2016 – and there are indications that a 17% year-on-year increase in June exports from the airport led to the high growth in cargo tonnage for that period. That bump in export figures has certainly contributed then to the airport’s positive performance in the first half of 2017, but HKIA has also benefited from an improved global outlook. And with the Asian markets leading the way in air cargo growth, HKIA is in prime position to take advantage of a global economic performance that is looking positive in terms of consumer and business confidence.

Investing for the future

HKIA isn’t standing still, with work starting last August on a third runway to help accommodate future growth. The airport is also making further investments to ensure it meets the needs of customers.

“On the cargo front, HKIA continues to develop its ability to serve fast-growing segments of the high-value cargo business, such as fresh produce and temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals that require specialised handling,” says an airport spokesperson. “The airport authority and local industry stakeholders are working closely together to pursue the IATA Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) accreditation on airport community basis and HKIA is expected to be recognised as an IATA CEIV Pharma Partner Airport by the third quarter in 2017.”

A sustainable future

Ignazio Coraci comments: “Clearly Hong Kong is an important site for both our ASC Cargo and SW Italia businesses, and so the news that air freight handling is continuing to grow there is great to hear. I’m also really encouraged by the investment in infrastructure that is being made at HKIA – it will go a long way towards making sure that the performance we’ve seen so far this year is sustained.”

IATA Chief Implores Air Cargo to go Paperless

Industry body the International Air Travel Association (IATA) recently held its 11th World Cargo Symposium in Dallas, Texas. At the event, the sector’s best gathered to discuss on air freight’s most pressing issues, and during the Symposium, the IATA’s chief implored carriers to go paperless.

Airport at dusk
There was a sense of cautious optimism.

Cautious optimism

During his speech, IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac admitted that the global air cargo industry can be characterised by a feeling of “cautious optimism.” In January 2017, we saw air freight levels expand at a faster pace than they did the same month the year before. January is traditionally bad time for air cargo, due to slackening demand, so this illustrates the buoyancy of the sector as it currently stands.

Juniac explained that this optimism has been spurred by a rise in exports, along with double-digit e-commerce expansion. The World Trade Organisation’s recent global trade agreement, which IATA backed and should reduce trade costs by 14.3% on average, could make exports even more profitable for air cargo. He added that the sector’s prospects have been further lifted by the worldwide pharma market, with which it regularly conducts business, and is expected to be worth US$1.2 trillion by 2022.

Meeting demands

But, Juniac argued, it “has never been more important,” for air cargo to listen to customers, even in this current climate of potential and profitability. Yes, he conceded, air cargo volumes are growing, but shippers now expect more from the services they’re paying for. Going on, he said: “Innovations like Amazon, Baidu and Rakuten cut across modern society—with the exception of the air cargo world. Our customers are disappointed in the bureaucracy of our complicated processes.”

It’s also critical to note that consumers are placing an increasing emphasis on sustainability in the supply chain. A study from the University of Tennessee found that consumers care about where their products come from, and about the impact said goods have on the environment. This leads to the conclusion that sustainability could be beneficial to air cargo bureaucracy as well, allowing carriers another opportunity to display their green credentials to consumers and secure more business.

Convoluted practises

Speaking at the Symposium, Juniac was quoted by Freight Week, a sector publication, saying that consumers are “increasingly frustrated with complicated and convoluted paper-based processes that belong in the 16th century.” Expanding, he said “a single cargo shipment can require up to 30 pieces of paper. That’s a ridiculous and unnecessary waste of resources in our Internet-connected world.”

He said that his body has rolled out various e-cargo initiatives, to reduce paper and promote sustainability. But they are having had a limited effect, due to lacklustre interest. Continuing, he noted: “Shippers today want responsive services based on intelligent systems able to self-monitor, send real-time alerts and respond to deviation. Technologically speaking, this is totally possible… The key to this and other innovations is using data efficiently and effectively. Finding solutions to unfulfilled expectations creates value for customers. And that propels a business forward.”

Embracing the future

Commenting, Ignazio Coraci said: “Alexandre de Juniac made a valid point at the 11th World Cargo Symposium. It’s becoming clear that with the rise of e-admin tech and the climbing awareness of the environmental impact of paper, the industry cannot rely on paper for much longer. As the IATA continues to push e-cargo initiatives, it could change the ways carriers operate, providing a more cost effective, sustainable service for customers and potentially allowing firms to see higher returns.