The e-Air Waybill (e-AWB) solution allows the electronic filing of transportation document of an air cargo shipment to a Carrier or an Authorised Agent by a Freight Forwarder. e-AWB is an industry-wide initiative by International Air Transport Association (IATA) to replace paper Air Waybill (AWB).
e-Air WayBill (eAWB)
Every day, every International Air Cargo shipment can involve more than 30 different paper documents. Among the documents, the AWB or Air Consignment Note is the most important piece of non-negotiable transportation paper document in air cargo transportation issued directly by a carrier, or through its authorized agent.
The IATA aims to achieve 56 percent global penetration of the e-AWB initiative this year. The current status is at 37.2 percent. This March, e-AWB penetration slowed to 37.1 percent, compared to 37.5 percent in February. The IATA and the stakeholders in the air cargo community are working together to address this and increase e-air waybill adoption. One initiative take by IATA and the industry is the eAWB360 campaign that began in Europe in 2015 and is now happening in North America.
The eAWB360 Campaign
The eAWB360 campaign is a “call to action” industry initiative targeted at selected top 50 airports where there potentially exists a big percentage of airlines/general sales agents (GSAs) and ground handling agents (GHA) at these selected airports whom are ready and willing to provide e-AWB as the preferred method for all destinations, by adopting the IATA recommended Single Process and having a common e-AWB SOPs. The selected airports are also referred to as “e-Airports” must be well regulated and have established operational environment for e-AWB adoption.
The campaign consists of engagement and communication activities that aim to encourage airlines/GSAs, GHAs and freight forwarders to adopt e-AWB and help stakeholders prepare for e-AWB implementation. It’s all about aligning everyone involved with the e-AWB, overcoming barriers to adoption, and increasing penetration. The eAWB360 is not a mandatory program, but industry experts say the campaign is critical to bring value back to the air cargo industry. In summary, the eAWB360 campaign is community driven approach toward harmonized implementation of e-AWB with synchronized communication. The approach requires participants from industry will have to align themselves to the 3 pillars of the eAWB360 campaign:
Single Process - While in some cases or for some routes, paper air waybills are still required to issue due to local regulatory, operational or other reasons; under the Single Process, a freight forwarder always send e-AWB to the airline and never uses paper AWB. The airline determines whether a paper AWB is needed and prints the paper AWB on behalf of the forwarder using the e-AWB data.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) - The e-Airport SOP manual which describes the e-AWB Standard Operating Procedures at e-Airports contains operational guidelines which stakeholders of the air cargo community can adopt in order to comply with the e-AWB functional specifications at the e-Airports. Since these are generic procedures and not localized, stakeholders can adjust the operational procedures in order to comply with any regulation defined for specific origin and destination locations where e-AWB is used. In addition, stakeholders may need to adjust their procedures based on internal systems, local practice and agreements with third parties (suppliers, partners and customers). In the manual, IATA has defined prerequisites, operation process steps and exception management for both the export and import process covering scenario where the carrier self-handled the cargo or uses a GHA to handle the cargo.
Joint Communication - The eAWB360 campaign emphasizes on synchronized and coordinated communication on the use of e-AWB as the preferred means for shipping cargo to all destinations from selected e-Airports.
Who are the participating airports and airlines?
Till date, 21 airports have gone “live” or lined up to “go-live” in the next few months and 19 leading e-AWB airlines are currently supporting the eAWB360 campaign. With its success from the first phase focusing on the European region, the eAWB360 campaign is now into its second phase with most of the activities focusing on the North American region. Below are information about the participating airports, their go-live dates and participating airlines:
Airports and Go-Live Dates
You can find out the airlines’ participation by airport via this IATA diagram or refer to the list below:
IATA encourages freight forwarders, airlines/GSAs and GHAs to join the eAWB360 campaign. To be ready for e-AWB, the participant must sign the multilateral agreement with IATA and ensure that technology that supports e-AWB, electronic messages are of high quality, and business processes are in place.
Challenges to 100% e-AWB Adoption
The move to e-AWB adoption has its share of challenges. At a recent event hosted by Cargo Network Services (CNS), the U.S. offshoot of IATA, majority of delegates (66%) believe that widespread adoption of e-freight would positively impact on the flow goods. One-third of the delegates believed that there was no other advantage to invest in e-AWB besides cost savings. More than 50% of the delegates said that freight forwarders would benefit the most from the e-AWB initiative, but at the expense of airlines.
These challenges are exactly why the eAWB360 campaign is so important. Since the roll out of the 360 campaign in March this year, the penetration figures have increased significantly. According to an article published by Air Cargo News, the number of attendees in the Montreal and Toronto events had almost doubled since the last time the events were held. Alignment is slow, it is true, but it is moving forward and getting there.
There is still a lot of work to be done before 100% e-AWB adoption can be achieved. Stakeholders are helping out, compliance authorities are increasingly demanding electronic documentation for air cargo; which would encourage forwarders to switch to electronic documentation. Some airlines are also charging forwarders to convert paper AWB into e-AWB. There’s a clear message that those who are not ready for e-AWB will have to ship out eventually.
Technology Partners and Solutions Providers
The eAWB360 campaign brings the air cargo community together to share critical information. Key stakeholders and solution providers will be at the events to share their expertise and experience. Technology partners and e-air waybill solutions providers play very important roles in the acceleration of e-AWB adoption in general especially among small and medium-sized freight forwarders in particular where the cost of building technical and back office system capabilities can be very high. Technology partners and solutions providers are ready for e-AWB, and they are instrumental in getting the industry to collaborate.
According to the IATA, small and medium size forwarders generate about 25% of the total AWBs issued. However, smaller companies are reluctant to switch to paperless AWB because of the high investment in technology. Solutions providers currently offer many e-AWB-related services for large global forwarders as well as smaller firms. However, controversially, The IATA has recently launched its own basic e-AWB product called the eAWBLink to help small and medium forwarders adopt e-AWB.
Similar products from solutions providers are made available for small forwarders as well; and these products are typically more advanced and have more features, such as direct connectivity to multiple airlines plus the pricing is flexible, and clients can pay only for what they need or use.
For more information on e-Air Waybills and eAWB360, send us a message using the online form on the Contact Us page.