[By Yoshihiko Toda from Kuala Lumpur, March 13]
The World Cargo Symposium (WCO), the biggest air cargo conference in the world sponsored by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), was kicked off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 13. Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Group CEO, Malaysia Airline from the host country, Tony Tyler, DG & CEO, IATA, and YB Dato Seri Kong Cho Ha, the Honorable Minister of Transportation of Malaysia, delivered speeches at the opening ceremony.
This year's WCO, which represents the world's largest conference on air cargoes, marks the sixth time that this meeting has been held thus far. The event was attended by about 1,000 top executives from member airline companies of the IATA, forwarders, ground handling companies, customs agencies, shippers and airport-related firms. Apart from the three-day summit until March 15, panel talks and discussions were also held on the latest topics surrounding air transport, including e-Freight, fixed temperature and fixed time control, hazardous cargo transport and security. Booths were set up at the venue by the participating companies. Kaiji Press also ran its own booth, engaging in PR activities for its Daily CARGO segment.
At the opening ceremony, Tyler stressed the significance of air cargoes in the global economy and the importance of promoting stable growth and enhancing quality in this field, claiming that, "Air cargoes account for just 0.5% of global volumes traded. But by value, over 35% of goods traded internationally are handled by air." In particular, the computerization of cargo information was discussed, with the targeted ratio of transport through eAWB set to 15% by the end of this year and then to 100% by 2014. Cathay Pacific and Emirates already adopt the eAWB in all transport transactions at their home markets and Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines are scheduled to take the same step henceforth, according to Tyler.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines' Yahya pointed out the vulnerability of the airline industry. Amid the soaring prices of fuel, airline companies are struggling due to the slumped state of the global economy. Even Malaysia Airlines posted record-high deficits in its accounts settlement for 2011. "The profit margin is also on the way down for cargoes," said Yahya. As a result of its continued fleet expansion, the space dropped in the market is ballooning. Now the load factor is dropping and the freight yield is shrinking. As for future developments, Malaysia Airlines will promote the reconstruction of its business through such means as the optimization of its trade routes, as well as reinforce its alliances. Yahya claimed that the company is slated to join Oneworld in November this year, hoping to reap the rewards of partnering with other airline carriers.