eAWB, are freight forwarders ready for electronic messaging

The International Air Transport Association ( IATA ) has announced that from the 01st January the eAWB (Electronic Airwaybill) will become the default contract of carriage for all air cargo shipments. A simple enough statement but does this affect the majority of freight forwarders booking cargo.

If you use a consolidator or sub-contract to an airfreight forwarder who specialises in airline bookings then you should see no difference. You will still produce a HAWB or ask the freight forwarding consolidator to produce one for you. For your shipper the status quo does not change in the short term. In reality no paper HAWB is needed.  For those freight forwarders and cargo agents registered to produce eAWB’s it becomes a lot simpler.  Produce no paperwork on those routes where eAWB is the default airwaybill format.  Issue a paper copy only for the shipper/consignee if he needs one.

Registering for eAWB

As a freight forwarder it is worth reading up on eAWB. This link to the IATA website ( eAWB for Freight Forwarders ) gives you everything you need to know. You sign up for eAWB on the same page and complete IATA Resolution 672.  You can then be listed as an eAWB partner. Once listed you can check if you , or your freight forwarder is listed for eAWB here.  There is still a need to test your computer messaging systems and iron out any erroneous messaging.  When you first set up, whichever cargo software system, it will need tweaking.

Will eAWB’s save freight forwarders money

In essence this is a tricky one and will depend on several factors. On the face of it some airlines are charging forwarders who do not submit their waybills electronically. This is determined by each individual airline, rates vary and removing these costs is a clear positive.  In a market where forwarders often complain about shipper loyalty keeping costs down is key.  Losing a shipment for below £0.10 / Kilo from a regular customer irks.  It could be that airline messaging charges are the key or at least part of it.

However, if you are using an electronic messaging system, you are also being charged messaging fees.  These messaging fees are for messages sent and in some cases messages received. If your cargo software is not upto the required standard. Or you simply want a way of sending eAWB messages there are other methods.  IATA powerpoint presentation based on eAWB messaging as a very simple overview can be found here.

Some airlines have set up their own eAWB portals.  These allow free messaging of eAWB in to their system which is the cheapest form of eAWB messaging.  It does not offer the convenience of having it produced by your own software.  Double key-entry of vital information therefore may be needed. Certainly a good option if you are looking to go full paperless but less so if your shippers are not yet ready to do without a paper copy.

eAWB & the future for cargo

Etihad Airways & eAWBeAWB’s are certainly here to stay.  This move to make them the industry standard is largely down to where the air cargo industry stands.  According to IATA almost 56% of shipments on eligible lanes have moved under an eAWB. Lufthansa has also gone further by moving a dangerous goods shipment on an eAWB with an electronic dangerous goods note.

IATA believe that eAWB’s have underlying benefits to their carriers and to the industry as a whole. Work normally done by the handling agent is now done only once by the freight forwarder, elimination of paper based processes, faster delivery times, a decrease in handling errors, and positive environmental advantages to name a few.

If you book directly with the airlines then 2019 is likely to be the year you adopt the eAWB format.

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