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ICAO: cargo event underscores pressing needs

Modernization, liberalization, and new efficiencies

Air freight volumes will grow at a healthy rate of 4.2 per cent annually through to 2032, but only if current air cargo modernization continues to be robustly and cooperatively pursued by governments and industry.

This was one of the key messages conveyed by ICAO Secretary General (SG) Fang Liu at the Organization’s latest Air Cargo Development Forum, which took place last week in Zhengzhou, China. Both the first and the second of these ICAO Forums received funding and hosting support from the City of Zhengzhou and the Henan Province governments, reflecting in part, the tremendous recent growth of air cargo and e-commerce activity in the region.

The latest Forum’s timing references how, in 2017, air services carried 34.6% of the total value of all goods shipped through all modes of transport, as well as ICAO’s desire to increase public and private sector awareness of the critical importance of efficient air cargo operations to local and global economic development.

Stressing ICAO’s fundamental commitment to safety, SG further highlighted ICAO’s ongoing efforts to open airspace to cargo drones and integrate them effectively with existing low-altitude aircraft operations, issues which the Organization will explore in much more detail next week with the international experts arriving for its back-to-back Unmanned Aviation events in Chengdu.

Another key point of her remarks concerned the cooperation being undertaken in three areas which are essential today to the sustainability and profitability of air freight operations.

Liu noted that air transport liberalization has helped accelerate air cargo regulatory reform, and must continue, whether through bilateral or multilateral instruments. She pointed to the tremendous success of ICAO’s Air Services Negotiation (ICAN) events in this regard, and to ICAO’s current work on an international agreement to address regulatory and operational constraints. 

Concerning infrastructure gaps, SG stressed that ICAO is helping to foster and support new aviation investment through a variety of events and initiatives, and that there was never a more pressing need for increased air transport modernization. She emphasized the work ICAO is undertaking, in conjunction with the World Customs Organization, to replace slow and costly paper-based legacy documentation which encumbers efficient trade, mindful of related cybersecurity issues with e-Air Waybills and similar initiatives toward greater digitization.

She concluded her remarks by calling on States to reinforce the regulatory foundations of global cargo operations through the implementation of ICAO economic policies, and stressed the urgent need for governments to ratify the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (Montreal Convention), which was adopted under ICAO’s stewardship in 1999.

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