Thursday 27 June 2013

Paperless scheme for air cargo industry

Initiative will help firms cut costs and freight times, boost efficiency
By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2013

A TYPICAL international air cargo shipment requires 30 different paper documents, adding to costs and slowing freight times.

But under a Singapore scheme, launched yesterday, that messy paper trail will be eliminated, thanks to electronic data transfer.

At the launch of e-freight @Singapore, Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said the scheme would boost industry efficiency at a crucial time.

Demand has been shrinking for air cargo but the scheme could boost industry efficiency and help to improve profit margins, she said.

The scheme is a joint initiative of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

Involving airports, carriers, ground handlers, freight forwarders, shippers and government agencies, the programme aims to electronically link the air cargo business and logistics supply chain.

It is being built on the International Air Transport Association (IATA)'s e-freight programme and will take the paper out of the air cargo documentation process.

E-freight electronically captures data entered at the shipment's point of origin and transmits it to those on the receiving end.

Mrs Teo said the slowdown in the air cargo industry has been largely attributed to the fall in the growth of world trade volumes and a shift towards sea freight as shippers cut costs. Longer-term trends in global manufacturing may also mean continued lacklustre performance.

She said higher fuel costs will keep exerting pressure on air cargo costs, demand and margins.

"In such an environment, it makes sense for businesses to seek out opportunities for greater efficiency... Aligning Singapore's standard with that of Iata's will ensure that we have the highest chance of inter-operability with stakeholders, such as shippers, freight forwarders and airlines, not just locally but overseas."

Mrs Teo added: "This is of critical importance as Singapore's international trade volumes are three times that of our GDP."

The adoption of paperless air freight documentation for exporting millions of ornamental fish around the world is expected to save ornamental fish service provider Qian Hu Corporation about 500 man-hours every year.

"Before this initiative was introduced, our export department had to submit the commercial invoices and packing lists for each shipment to the freight forwarding company, which will then re-type the data to create airway bills, cargo manifests and export permits to the airlines and Singapore Customs," said Mr Kenny Yap, Qian Hu's executive chairman and managing director.

He added that a digitised information exchange will simplify the processes and ensure better data accuracy. "Qian Hu benefits by having our existing staff strength handle larger quantities of information," he said.

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