Cargo Service Quality, Community Systems and Trade Facilitation

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With over 130 countries ratifying the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, the focus is on reducing and eliminating wherever possible, barriers to trade (both Tariff and Non-Tariff). It is indeed heartening to see several countries setting up the National Trade Facilitation committees and fervently taking initiatives that would facilitate trade. World Trade Organization is also playing the role of a catalyst by providing a platform to share best practices and laying down the guidelines for implementation of trade facilitation initiatives

TIACA is playing a very important role in trade facilitation. Trade facilitation necessitates that we ensure the quality of transportation. It also means that the airports who are the important cogs in the wheel of trade, understand the meaning of service quality in cargo and have a tool to understand, measure and improve the service quality of cargo operations at the airport.

TIACA’s Cargo Service Quality (CSQ) pilots took off in a big way with over 19 terminal operators / airports participating in the pilot of Cargo Service Quality. These pioneers have involved their stakeholders in assessing service quality at their respective terminals/airports. The reports are very encouraging with most of them now getting clarity on where the improvement areas are and where their strengths are. Both these findings have empowered them in creating action plans for improving on the areas where their scores are not the best and creating sales pitches around their strengths. The communities participating in the assessments also seem to appreciate the opportunity of giving their valuable inputs. The results of the pilots and their experiences will be shared soon by TIACA, but it suffices to say that this is a big step in trade facilitation aimed at improving the quality of air cargo transportation.

In fact, the CSQ initiative is an important measurement for transport quality viz. World Bank’s “(Ease of) Doing Business” report (in the “Trading Across Borders” chapter) and the Logistics Performance Index. The airports, that would undertake the CSQ initiative, are likely to help their countries in improving rankings for above measurements. The excitement to move towards an improved quality era is quite palpable and the commercial launch of this initiative is taking place at the Air Cargo Forum in Toronto later this year.

Another very important tool for trade facilitation are the single window systems and airport/port community systems. As per the UN recommendation 33 for single window implementation, it is very important to have both the regulatory and non-regulatory single window systems in place to ensure trade facilitation. Gathering communities around the airports and providing them with common platforms to interact with each other digitally is the only way forward to push the boundaries of digitization in air cargo. This will certainly ensure that the right digital infrastructure is put at the airport to facilitate trade. Needless to say that block chain technology and artificial intelligence will also drive the trade facilitation agenda.

With the volumes in air cargo surging, the tail winds of Trade Facilitation will create even more favourable environment for the industry. With disruptive technologies on horizon, its indeed important that we understand how this concoction will affect all of us in near future.