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My thanks to Des Vertannes, for his closing speech at IATA, when he answered the question raised by The Loadstar’s blog: “Can Gacag fix all the industry’s ills?” 
And his answer? “I don’t think we can boast that Gacag will fix it all. Let’s focus on what we can cure, and what we need to cure first. We need the skills to deliver expectations, and to look at the issues we have and the timescale we have.”
He is right: there is a heavy weight of expectation on IATA, Gacag, and on Des’s shoulders in particular. Can he fix the industry? Can Gacag – which today announced its intention to focus first on security and e-commerce –  do the job everyone hopes it can?
And will, then, the pathetic margins of 1.4% expected to be made by the industry this year be extended? Can air cargo eat into the 98% share of the freight transport market taken by other modes – inch up to 2.5% perhaps?
The problem for the muttering bystanders is that it’s not all up to Des. Responsibility can’t lie with him alone. Or even with Gacag (which, incidentally, is up and running from today). One of the worries, voiced by Mick Fountain of OHL, was that despite IATA’s admirable list of goals, there were no timings for completion, no names chalked against the responsibilities. Or, as he rather beautifully put it: “We need to boil it down to whose throats we can choke for non-delivery.”
In many ways it’s now up to everyone who wants the industry, and their business, to do better. Up to everyone who wants to change those year-after-year stats showing no improvement. As Ted B commented on this blog: “Don’t people understand that IATA is the airlines themselves? The association, at least in principle, is supposed to represent and reflect its membership. That it is otherwise, is what those who expect it to deliver ought to focus on and affect.”
So yes, it is time to affect change, to stand up and be counted. There’s growth in the market, the deepest days of the recession are over, and companies can now start to look outwards – at collaborating across the supply chain to make “the pie” bigger for everyone. Not just that, but I seem to remember an offer of money for companies who could spare their best person to help IATA see through its ambitions.
IATA has set the industry some strong targets for this year, and Istanbul showed that there was some enthusiasm for meeting them. To join Gacag, the handlers need to form an industry-wide association; IATA’s priorities are to pursue “harmonised and mutually recognised secure freight, promote e-commerce adoption, raise the industry’s profile and introduce industry quality standards”. And each track set itself its own agenda. (If you would like to know what they are, feel free to email me and I’ll send them out.)
But the work has to start now. It’s time to forget IATA’s past failures, bury the hatchet, and support its efforts. 
It’s time to walk the walk and stop the talk, talk, talk.

For those who missed the Closing Plenary, you might like to know the IATA fact sheet:
1,013 delegates
149 speakers
1,869 slides
3,937 cups of coffee
10,000kg of food
1 cat falling through the ceiling in the eAWB session
Let’s see what that all amounts to in terms of industry change…

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  • Alex Lennane

    March 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Ram Menen emails: You hit the nail on the head and thank you for laying it down as it is. It is not up to one person or one association/organization to ring in the changes. It is a collective responsibility for us all. The leadership taken by GACAG is the first step to come together as an industry, and start working towards a common goal.
    In the past, we were all working on a divergent path. GACAG is an attempt to bring a common focus and work towards convergence. As Des said we have a lot of work to do and let us start with one step a time and focus on a handful of issues that we can manage and resolve for the good of the industry.
    GACAG is not a talking shop but an action workshop, which has the key elements of the industry, and once we identify the right competencies within the group we will let experts deal with items within their expertise and bring it to the workshop floor to assemble the right future model for the good of the industry. Of course, establishing a timeline for each activity is key to having the right component, at the right time, at the right place in the building block, to ensure we create a robust establishment. Apart from IATA, FIATA, GSF, WCO and TIACA all have an equal role to play and I am glad they have all come together to create a new start.
    This is a great industry which is critical to world, and mankind as it keeps the wheels of commerce turning.

  • Alex Lennane

    March 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Ingo Roessler adds: Let us all hope GACAG will not deteriorate to a GAG over time.