“We are moving on from the pandemic but now we have geopolitical problems and economic turmoil,” he says. “Air cargo has to continue to adapt and provide value to the industry and the world at large.”
There are three main tracks at WCS: digitization, sustainability and safety and security.
Digitization is an imperative in air cargo if it is to transition from a messaging environment to a holistic, digital structure. IATA’s ONE Record project is leading the way, but the digitization space is ripe for new businesses that will improve the management and tracking of shipments.
“Governments and industry must be aligned,” says Sullivan. The point of digitization is to bring efficiencies and so partners must go on this journey together.”
Sustainability, meanwhile, is a given for all sectors of aviation. Air cargo shares the main areas of interest, such as carbon emission reduction. But there are some specific challenges, including working out the carbon footprint of a complex supply chain. Air cargo needs to understand and measure carbon emissions at every stage of a shipment’s journey before it can work to reduce those emissions.
“We are also looking at waste in the supply chain and how we deal with that,” says Sullivan. “And the modernization of facilities on the ground has to be done in a sustainable way too. But we need to discuss exactly how that will affect our processes and efficiency.”
As for safety and security, lithium batteries continue to grab the headlines. But e-commerce is becoming an increasing concern simply because there are so many sellers. It’s unrealistic to expect them all to have an understanding of, or expertise in, aviation risk. The question then becomes how to manage safety in this growing area of business.
“ULDs are also critical for safety and efficiency,” says Sullivan. “We effectively use them to pre-load aircraft and there are a lot of developments in this area. Governments must be quicker in defining standards.”
WCS will focus on all these topics and more. Air cargo is increasingly in the spotlight due to its performance during the pandemic but that must translate into robust investment. Although there are some specific cases of money being put into air cargo, it is not a general trend.
“With the right financial input, air cargo will continue to bring value to the industry and to the world,” Sullivan sums up. “It will generate close to $200 billion this year—vital revenue for airlines. And then there is the rapid, global distribution of goods, humanitarian aid, and vaccines. The WCS is the ideal opportunity to showcase the great work this sector is doing and discuss the insights that will propel it into a sustainable future.”