The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has renewed its calls for a coordinated approach among governments to keep air cargo flowing, warning that a failure to do so could disrupt vital shipments.
Delays in permit approvals, quarantine measures for air cargo crew and not enough support on the ground continue to hamper the movement of cargo flights carrying vital medical supplies and other necessities, the global airline association says.
“Airlines are providing as much capacity as they can,” says Glyn Hughes, IATA’s global head of air cargo. “Governments need to step up and ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient and that there is adequate infrastructure and support available in the air and on the ground.”
IATA notes that many governments and international regulatory bodies are facilitating the movement of air cargo. The European Commission (EC) issued Guidelines on Facilitating Air Cargo Operations During COVID-19 Outbreak. The World Customs Organisation (WCO) has implemented a series of emergency contacts to ensure cargo border blockages can be responded to immediately, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has issued a series of state letters urging member states to further facilitate air cargo flows during this time of crisis.
“But there are still too many examples of delays in getting charter permits issued, a lack of exemptions on COVID-19 testing for air cargo crew, and inadequate ground infrastructure to/from and within airport environments,” IATA highlights. “Air cargo needs to move efficiently throughout the entire supply chain to be effective.”
As such IATA is urging governments to:
- Cut the paperwork for charter operations;
- Exempt cargo crew from quarantine rules that apply to the general population;
- Ensure there is adequate staff and facilities to process cargo efficiently;
- Mutually recognise agreed global standards (health certificates, licenses, etc.);
- Ensure alternate airports are available even if passenger flights are not operating.
“To keep cargo flights operating safely, airlines need access to alternate airports along all routes. These alternate airports are where aircraft can land in the event of an emergency during flight,” says Hughes.
“Because of the sharp drop in passenger flights, some airports that serve the critical alternate airport function are closed or not available at all times. A coordinated effort by governments to keep alternate airports operational is needed. If not, the global air cargo network cannot function and vital shipments are at risk,” he warns.
Ensuring that stakeholders have access to the latest operational and regulatory guidance in relation to COVID-19 is essential. IATA is supporting industry through several initiatives:
- Air Cargo COVID-19 Action Page provides updated information covering all aspects of regulatory and operational information related to air cargo;
- IATA TACT COVID-19 Operational Impact Portal provides up to date information on airlines’ air cargo operations status to help ensure shipper access to capacity;
- IATA Quick Reference for Ground Handling During COVID-19 provides a reference guide for Ground Handling during the COVID-19 outbreak;
- IATA Guidance on the Safe Carriage of Cargo in the Passenger Cabin provides a comprehensive guide on issues to be considered when performing a safety risk and operational assessment when utilising passenger aircraft for cargo only operations.
“We all need to work together to keep cargo moving. That means we all need to be on the same page. Global standards are a priority to achieve this objective. IATA is disseminating the information required. And where there is more complexity, IATA’s vital role is to collect deviations/local information and make it available to all the players in the cargo industry,” adds Hughes.