‘Learning from past events is critical for the education of the supply chain’: James Wyatt
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently released the ‘Carriage of Cargo, Mail, and Baggage - Guidance for Operators’, which seeks to serve as guidance material for aircraft operators to develop safety risk assessments for the carriage of cargo, mail, and baggage, with a focus on Dangerous Goods. James Wyatt, General Manager at German aviation management consulting firm aeroconcept unpacks some of the salient points of the guidance material
Why was the need felt by the industry stakeholders to develop these standards and who are some of the people, associations, or communities that have contributed to its creation?
The guidance material for the ‘Carriage of Cargo, Mail and Baggage Guidance for Operators, was initiated by the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel Working Group in 2015 in combination with the International Coordination Council for Aerospace Industry Association (ICCAIA) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA). This initiation was via a ‘working paper’ which was presented to the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel Working Group. The working paper was concerning the provisions applicable to the transport of Lithium batteries. As part of my role at DHL Express at the time, as the Head of Global Restricted Commodities, I attended the ICAO working group as part of the Global Express Association, alongside FedEx and UPS.
In our industry, for any regulation to work correctly, there must be collaboration from all entities of the supply chain along with the regulatory parties including governments and the civil aviation authorities. This guide seeks to enhance the regulation surrounding the carriage of Lithium batteries, enabling further transparency across the supply chain and ensuring the various stakeholders along the supply chain are made aware of their responsibilities.
What are some of the salient points of this guidance material for aircraft operators to develop safety risk assessments for the carriage of Cargo, Mail, and Baggage, with Dangerous Goods being the core focus behind this approach?
Traditionally in aviation, the responsibility lies with the operators but other stakeholders must also play their part in ensuring that the aircraft operator is able to have full transparency on the cargo, baggage, and mail they are carrying. Only with all that information present are they then able to take decisions related to safety risk assessments. The ultimate objective for the aircraft operator is to be able to perform a safety risk assessment in a well-informed situation to determine what can be carried and how it can be carried.
Aircraft operators do not necessarily need to perform a safety risk assessment for each and every flight when it concerns the carriage of Lithium batteries. They must rather develop a specific safety risk assessment that encompasses all of the elements of the risk in order for them to take decisions for a consistent operational approach. For example, on where and when to load Lithium batteries in an aircraft hold. As an example, many operators restrict the loading of Lithium batteries into aircraft holds that have certain levels of fire compression capabilities, so that in case of an incident there is a greater chance of the fire being extinguished or at least prolonging the event of fire whilst the flight crew can land at the nearest suitable airport for the aircraft type that they are operating.
This new guidance material requests that all variables are taken into consideration in order for the airline operator to make an accurate safety risk assessment. This could include items like the aircraft type, compartment fire suppression capability, Unit Load Device (ULD) fire suppression capability, routing of the aircraft, warehouse handling procedures, and so on. Based on this information, the airline is then able to make an accurate assessment of its operation. The performing of a safety risk assessment in airline operations is a common practice and is documented in ICAO Annex 6, Part 1, Chapter 15.
Could you share some points on each of the aspects outlined in the new 'Carriage of Cargo, Mail, and Baggage - Guidance for Operators'?
This is a ‘guidance’ material, designed to enhance the safety risk assessment of all the stakeholders involved, ultimately ensuring that the airline operator is able to make informed decisions. The supply chain is responsible to classify, prepare, accept and transport any type of dangerous goods in accordance with the regulations and with all stakeholders taking their responsibility seriously in terms of adherence to the regulation and training.
How can more industry collaboration be put in place and aid in this initiative?
Organizations must train in accordance with the required regulatory standards ensuring that all personnel involved in the handling of dangerous goods and general cargo are competent to perform their functions. All stakeholders of the supply chain must be up to date with the current regulations, proactive in their approach, transparent, and open to reporting when things go wrong. Learning from past events is critical for the education of the supply chain, combined with governments taking the appropriate action of punishment on the stakeholder concerned will help. In doing this, the entire supply chain can learn, adapt and improve on process and procedure which in turn, enhances safety. This is the ultimate goal.
We know that eCommerce was a sweet spot in the air cargo fortunes in the last two years as supply chains reeled under the aftermath of the pandemic. How does this figure in the 'Carriage of Cargo, Mail, and Baggage - Guidance for Operators'?
eCommerce is a type of cargo. The principles of the approach of the guidance material and the overall safety risk assessment approach of the airline remain the same. The eCommerce operators must have transparency on what they are shipping. This starts with the shipment data, a check of approved shippers for dangerous goods, physical acceptance, and processing before the flight event. The eCommerce operator must be proactive in informing their customer (the shipper) of their responsibilities when preparing a shipment for air transportation.
How does this guidance material become important in the context of IATA CEIV certification becoming more popular with carriers, handlers, and forwarders, according to you?
The program for IATA CEIV Lithium Batteries is the industry platform for supply chain stakeholders, namely shippers and freight forwarders to be accredited to a certain standard. This covers training and the physical assessment of operations. In doing this, the airline operator can then have further transparency on what the shipper and freight forwarder is shipping, knowing that it is in line with industry standard which is regulated against the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations. The more such quality programs are pushed down into the industry, the better it is for flight safety enhancement.
At the beginning of last year, IATA made some amendments to the Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) rules regarding the transportation of Lithium batteries and Lithium-ion batteries on aircraft. How does this differ from that and are there any overlaps- do specify if so.
The core regulatory changes do not have a significant impact on the safety assessment approach. The changes in the DGR were concerned more with the marking and labelling of certain battery shipment types. The responsibilities of the supply chain remain the same.
We are seeing a wide range of announcements from within the air cargo industry regarding a move toward digitalization. Is there any mention or regulation regarding how digitalization can play a role in any of these facets of the newly launched 'Carriage of Cargo, Mail, and Baggage - Guidance for Operators'?
Digitization is a key component of the industry and the more this takes place the better for safety. If the shipper/freight forwarder is transmitting the consignment data to the airline before the cargo physically arrives at their facility, then the airline can already get to work on that consignment and work with the data to perform checks on the shipper and process the consignment. They can see if the consignment is dangerous goods or evaluate the nature of goods by the name to detect if a shipment could be dangerous goods. Having this data early enables a much more transparent approach and provides the supply chain with the data from the origin to the destination. This will continue to be a key driver in the industry in the coming months and years and the industry must adopt and ultimately see the use of paper as an exception only.