Dec 2, 2013

NCA set to join Multilateral e-AWB Agreement

NCA at the vanguard of Japanese-affiliated airlines

Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) announced recently that it will join the Multilateral e-AWB Agreement, representing the first Japanese airline company to make such move. It disclosed that its two domestic bases (Narita and Kansai) and two overseas bases (Singapore and Amsterdam) have expressed their intention to join to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) effective December 29. In line with its drive to promote the shift to electronic data interchange (EDI), NCA aims to boost the service routes that will introduce the e-AWB toward enhanced air transport services and better quality. Foreign capital-funded airlines and forwarders have gone ahead of their Japanese counterparts in taking part in the Multilateral e-AWB Agreement. Now with NCA's disclosure of its participation in the latter, it is expected that other Japanese-affiliated airline companies and forwarders will also venture into the Multilateral e-AWB Agreements in the future.

The e-Freight being pushed by the IATA is a project that promotes the computerization of documents related to cargo transport, which is anticipated to lead to lower costs and reduce environmental load through the digitization of documents, among other results. As part of the e-Freight program, the IATA aims to transform 50% of waybills into computerized e-AWBs within 2014 and then boost that figure to 100% by 2015.

The e-AWB is mainly characterized by two things: (1) the ability to switch the Master AWB into EDI transmittal, and (2) the elimination of the need to close an individual EDI agreement (contract that seeks to protect the general terms and conditions of the AWB) between the airline and the forwarder when the Multilateral e-AWB Agreement has been signed with the IATA. The airline companies enter into the Multilateral e-AWB Agreement at each airport.

At present, there are 52 companies worldwide that have joined the Multilateral e-AWB Agreement (based on the figures released by the IATA on November 21), with 20 companies having already signed the agreement in Japan. The airline companies that have signed the agreement in Japan are, in chronological order of contract conclusion, Delta Air Lines, Swiss International Airlines, Air Canada, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa Cargo, KLM Cargo, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Cargolux, China Airlines, United Airlines, Cargolux Italia, Hong Kong Dragon Airlines, Qatar Air, American Airlines, Polar Air Cargo, British Airways, EVA Air and Turkish Airlines.

Meanwhile, 399 forwarders worldwide have signed the Multilateral e-AWB Agreement, with 19 of them signing in Japan. Of the forwarders that signed in Japan, Japanese-affiliated entities only count three, comprising Kintetsu World Express (KWE), Nissin Corp. and Aichi Nissin Co.

While there may just a few firms in Japan that have signed the agreement, on a global scale, the number of airline companies and forwarders signing it is steadily rising. However, the Multilateral e-AWB Agreement, which is attracting a lot of attention for its convenience, is still plagued with issues. For instance, it seems that the application of the e-AWB might be hampered by the varying regulations on customs clearance and specifications of the customs systems in each country. In the case of a customs clearance system that values "stamping on documents" such as the one implemented in Russia, some airline companies find it extremely difficult to computerize their documents.

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