TF Spotlight: Airport Cargo Community System can move the transportation industry to the 21st Century
Wow, that makes me seem old… but I am just very experienced. When I first started cargo clearing in the United States, I typed, yes typed, a little green form called a 3461. All of that is now automated, and data is transmitted to the US Government using the ACE (Automated Commercial Environment) platform. I remember, in 1986, when then-Commissioner William von Rabb made the statement, “automate or perish”, many of us thought there would be no way to automate all the information needed to process an international shipment. Yet here we are, some 34 years later, living in a very brilliantly orchestrated world of digitisation.
This pandemic has deeply impressed upon us the need for change we have ignored for a very long time. Digitisation is the future of our industry, and I can already see two immediate positive impacts of implementing ACS, which are crucial for economic and environmental sustainability.
Economic sustainability will be achieved through the reduction of data exchange being done manually; lesser dwell time at the terminal reduces detention and wait-time fees, which are ultimately passed on to the end-user; having a dedicated pickup or drop-off time at the handling terminals enables the shipper or importer to reach the market faster. Stakeholders using the ACS will be able to better align their resources and maximise better forecasts of when and where equipment and staff are most needed. The faster and more efficiently cargo moves through an Airport cargo hub, the more attractive that Airport can be to the international trade market.
Environmental sustainability will be achieved through the reduction of paperwork needed to move a single piece of freight (approximately 100 documents play a role in freight shipping, according to Freightos); the carbon footprints will be reduced by reducing the time that trucks sit idle awaiting their turn at the dock; having a digital infrastructure in place, like Kale ACS, also reduces the number of “touchpoints” and physical face-to-face interactions of the various stakeholders, thus helping to curve the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases that are spread through human touch.
The radical change that can be achieved by implementing an ACS is moving the transportation industry to the 21st century with the help of technologies like IoT, AI and ML to improve efficiencies and expedite cargo movement.
PCS (Port Community System) can be as simple as a container pick up and drop off scheduler to a full-blown Customs inter-graded platform. PCS can be a public, private, or joint public/private partnership. The biggest challenge I see for a PSC is the initial implementation. As noted, it can be set up with or without government involvement, depending on what the PSC is set to achieve. Therefore, there is much research needed at any Port considering a PSC to determine the different possibilities. PSC can be used as (a container scheduler or fully integrated platform to include data exchange with government entities or both).
Once a Port has determined that a PSC could bring benefit to their region, the community must then determine the phase-in implementation. Starting with a “steering committee” to identify the needs and challenges, then to a proof of concept, and finally, full participation of all stakeholders. Digital infrastructure can be utilised in a PSC just as effectively as it can in an ACS, therefore, achieving the same economic and environmental benefits at ocean Ports as those of the Airports.
It’s no secret that the Air Cargo industry has been hesitant to invest in new technologies. The pandemic has shown us how not investing in sustainable initiatives is an expensive option. There are quite a few ways a community system could assist during and following a pandemic. During a time when we are asked for social distance (actually, I prefer to call it safely distancing) and maintain a 6-foot separation, a community system reduces the number of times the stakeholders must be face-to-face; it eliminates the need for “paper” exchange, where viruses can live not for just hours but days together and it can also provide real-time visibility of the cargo status, allowing for better planning with reduced or WFM staff.
A community system will help post-pandemic, as the move to digitisation will have already been implemented, and when cargo movement is back to normal, the heavy load can be processed more efficiently, reducing errors, time, and cost to the stakeholders.