Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus Has Serious Ramifications for Air Freight Industry

Cargo Carriage Needs Governmental Support
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – At times of crisis people in the general population sometimes have the importance of logistics and the supply chain brought home to them, and the current virus situation is certain to prove a vivid example. Air freight in particular is key to minimising, and possibly resolving, the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, and the cargo industry may need substantial government support to maintain the flow of essential supplies.

The sector is particularly key with regard to pharmaceutical items, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) points out that since the crisis began, air cargo has been a vital partner in delivering much-needed medicines, medical equipment (including spare parts/repair components), and in keeping global supply chains functioning for the most time-sensitive materials. This has been done through dedicated cargo freighter operations, utilisation of cargo capacity in passenger aircraft and with relief flights to affected areas.

Air cargo is also instrumental in transporting food and other products purchased online in support of quarantine and social distancing policies implanted by states. However the dramatic travel restrictions and collapse of passenger demand have severely limited cargo capacity. IATA is calling on governments to take urgent measures to ensure that air cargo will be available to support the global fight against the virus.

IATA is asking for a series of action by governments which it sees as an essential part of the fight against the infection. These include:

  • Exclude air cargo operations from any covid-19-related travel restrictions, to ensure life-saving medical products can be transported without disruption
  • Ensure that standardised measures are in place so that air cargo can continue to move around the world with minimal disruptions
  • Exempt air cargo crew members, who do not interact with the public, from 14-day quarantine requirements
  • Support temporary traffic rights for cargo operations where restrictions may apply
  • Remove economic impediments, such as overfly charges, parking fees, and slot restrictions to support air cargo operations during these unprecedented times

The points were emphasised by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, who commented:

”Air cargo carriers are working closely with governments and health organisations around the world to safeguard public health while also keeping the global economy moving. Today, as we fight a global health war against covid-19, governments must take urgent action to facilitate air cargo. Keeping cargo flowing will save lives.

“Over 185,000 passenger flights have been cancelled since the end of January in response to government travel restrictions. With this, vital cargo capacity has disappeared when it is most urgently needed in the fight against COVID-19. The world’s fleet of freighter aircraft has been mobilized to make up this capacity shortfall. Governments must take urgent measures to ensure that vital supply lines remain open, efficient and effective.”

One factor that hinders the situation is the inconsistencies present in the supply chain to and from different countries and of course any cutting of services and the resultant loss of volume available for cargo is likely to lead to rising shipping rates as the world economy shrinks but the demand for vital urgent supplies increases.