The safety, security, efficiency, and resiliency of supply chains will benefit from air cargo digitalization, supported by standards developed at UNECE’s UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT).
Public health concerns over COVID-19 are a new driving force behind digitalization of air cargo and the broader supply chain, and this will be enduring. Meanwhile, e-commerce and other trends are transferring control of cargo flows to the consumer and away from manufacturers, which reflects significant evolution in the marketplace.
UNECE and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are developing and offering technical specifications on the digitalization of multimodal transport data and document exchange to member States and other stakeholders as international public goods, and this at a time when the world needs them most. Exemplifying the development and implementation of the innovative of trade facilitation policies and initiatives needed for global economic recovery, ICAO and UNECE strengthened their cooperation in this area through a webinar that took place on 21 April 2021. This reinforces a United Nations-wide effort to ensure interoperability in multimodal transport data and document flows to increase safety and efficiency in international transport and supply chains.
The standards and solutions that the two organizations work on are aligned with the UN/CEFACT standards. UNECE experts working under the multiagency UN Development Account project on connectivity, trade and transport issues during the pandemic have already developed standards and artefacts for the key documents accompanying goods in road, rail, maritime and inland water transport. Now they are starting the development of standards for the digitalization of three air cargo documents: airwaybill, dangerous goods declaration, and consignment security declaration.
The supply chain is inherently multimodal and instruments such as the UN/CEFACT Multimodal Transport Reference Data Model (MMT RDM) represent integrated solutions that will be indispensable tools for advancing digital trade, meeting the needs of the future marketplace. Including air cargo in the work on implementing MMT RDM and efforts to harmonize standards for the digitalization of multimodal transport data exchange will be an important step in developing an integrated approach to transport policy, encompassing all the air cargo and mail supply chains.
Member States and supply chain actors (e.g., air carriers, airports, freight forwarders) should consider ways in which they can support pilot implementation of the UN/CEFACT deliverables for the three pilot air cargo documents, along with other tools to be published on the web site of the UN interagency project.
UNECE and ICAO are currently inviting governments and other private sector, supply chain actors in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia to volunteer for implementation pilot projects. In light of their geographic location between major markets, implementation of these digital trade tools and policies in these subregions could make an important contribution to countries’ socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.