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So, what’s the gossip from the (very long) coffee breaks? How is IATA doing?

Well, first and foremost, the accusations of an elitist organisation is probably the first thing to deal with. I won’t go on about transparency (much) more, but the large numbers of closed doors aren’t just annoying the press. They exude an air of general exclusion, that those outside of the inner circle feel deeply. Not least, the very few forwarders that are here ( fewer than last year, it seems). “Well, there’s not much we seem allowed to go to,” said one,  (little realising that the same rules apply to most delegates).

The leaders at the top of the industry are doing a good and worthwhile job. But the more they work together, the easier it is for others to feel that it’s an elitist industry, disregarding the views of those who work under the executive level.

This was not helped yesterday by the entertaining moderator,  Aaron Heslehurst. What he lacks in accuracy he makes up for in enthusiasm – and sheer volume. But while he is a breath of fresh air, whose knowledge of the business improves every year, his frequent  comments directed personally, yet publicly, to the inner circle, Ram, BJ…(you know the names), were probably unhelpful for those at the top as they served to strengthen the idea that there is an old boys network, a class in the industry which is all by itself. Actions like this, together with the closed doors, are in danger of alienating the masses, which I am sure is not the intention of the leadership. Exactly the opposite, in fact (one hopes).

It’s understandable that the industry associations, Tiaca, Gacag, IATA, want to get things done. And this means that they must make decisions on behalf of the industry to give it a little more propulsion that it has had in the past. But herein lies another problem. They are acutely aware of the lack of people either interested in joining the industry, or coming up through it. But sometimes it feels like such a closed shop that anyone new or young and trying to learn is automatically excluded from the dialogue. If it’s the airline business they are interested in, they are going to get a far louder voice, far more responsibilities if they join the more dynamic low cost carrier business, where all ideas are welcome. Where is the incentive to stay in cargo if it’s going to take years before you feel a part of it?

And to make it a truly World Cargo Symposium, as IATA wants it to be, it has to attract not only the rank and file of the air cargo industry, but the forwarders, crucially, too.

To this end, it may be worth noting that many companies find sending more staff here is painfully expensive.  Is there a way of helping smaller companies? Or a way of helping younger people in the industry to come? IATA claims the focus of the WCS is not commercial. So perhaps more people could come, at less of a profit. At least recommending cheaper hotels would be a start.

The WCA Family conference last week in Bangkok organised a special meeting for the under-30s. It wasn’t hugely well attended – many forgot or were late (they were young…) Perhaps there could be space, given the myriad of meetings at the WCS, for more junior delegates to meet and learn and listen. That would help them feel  included, and it will start to shape the future of the industry.

As I write, Darryl Judd, from Logistics Executive, is saying the same thing. He adds the point that right at the start of the WCS, there was a speech form a lawyer, warning that if you say the wrong thing, you can go to prison. “What does that say to those who are considering this industry?” He also shows that the freight industry isn’t mentioned in the top 50 career choices for graduates.

Something has got to change.

For those of you who aren’t at IATA, The Loadstar has put together the figures from the voting in the opening plenary. If they are not completely accurate (I haven’t counted all the percentages), apologies, but they are roughly right. (And IATA seems unable offer the figures as yet. Sometimes a pen really is more efficient than technology.)

Time for more coffee. More from KL later…


Which sector are you from:

Airlines: 30%

Forwarders: 8%

Shippers: 2%

Customs: 4%

Solution providers: 17%

Airports: 18%

Other (incl IATA staff): 21%

What region are you from:

North America: 16%

Latin America: 2%

Africa: 2%

Middle East: 5%

Europe: 33%

North Asia: 5%

Asia Pacific: 29%

Malaysia: 8%

Size of company:

Less than 100: 21%

101-500: 16%

501-2000: 28%

2,000+: 35%

Did you attend IATA’s WCS last year?

Yes: 40%

No: 60%

Why do you think the market has shrunk over the past two years:

Consumers aren’t spending as much: 55%

Additional security costs: 3%

Oil prices: 17%

Tax: 0%

Government austerity measures: 4%

Modal shift: 13%

Competition: 4%

Other: 4%

Your  forecast for 2012

It will be more than 2011: 37%

It will be similar to 2011: 30%

It will be less than 2011: 28%

Don’t know: 5%

Are you aware of Gacag?

Aware: 16%

Unaware: 84%

How important is paperless cargo:

Critical for survival: 15%

Important for profitability: 18%

Important for efficiency: 62%

Can survive fine without it: 4%

I don’t know: 1%

How paperless will the industry be by 2015 (IATA’s target is 100%)

100% paperless: 7%

75% paperless: 12%

50% paperless: 37%

25% paperless: 24%

Less than 25% paperless: 20%

Who is least ready to operate in paperless environment:

Shippers: 17%

Customs/ regulators: 50%

Airlines: 7%

Forwarders: 20%

Ground handlers: 6%


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