The appointment of Juan Carlos Salazar of Colombia as the new Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been welcomed by FIATA International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), the Global Express Association (GEA), and the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA).

Mr Salazar’s appointment – for a three-year term from August 2021 – comes at a critical time for air cargo, which shares some of the challenges of the passenger industry but also faces unique difficulties in the current operating environment. The COVID-19 pandemic showcased to the broader aviation stakeholder community the critical importance of air cargo. Throughout the pandemic, the air cargo industry tackled complex safety, health, and operational issues, while supporting continued economic activity and proving vital for the transport of vaccines, medicines, and medical supplies and equipment around the world. ICAO is appropriately placed to build on this heightened profile – communicating the importance and potential of air cargo, championing policies to further develop the sector and supporting the drive for digitalization.

Congratulating Mr Salazar on his appointment, the associations note the uncertainty surrounding the recovery of passenger services to pre-COVID levels, and the consequential need for cargo-only operations continues to increase in response to rising demand, following the loss of cargo capacity traditionally provided via scheduled passenger services.

FIATA, TIACA, GEA and IPCSA are all eager to support ICAO in its work to develop and strengthen air cargo operations, which will be increasingly vital for global trade and long-term economic recovery of ICAO Member States as the broader supply chain evolves with the global marketplace.

Key issues include digitalization, to minimize the health risks and inefficiency of paper for information exchange; the rapid advance of e-commerce, in which air cargo is a vital tool for moving goods quickly to key markets; and a development of a cargo-specific regulatory framework that will foster sectoral growth in response to market needs.

The upcoming High-level Conference on COVID-19 (HLCC 2021), to be held in October, will provide an opportunity to discuss how ICAO can act to futureproof all-cargo air operations, building in strength and resilience while ensuring that the sector is prepared for any future pandemic or other emergency. Discussions around a specific and open economic regime for cargo-only operations, including so-called seventh freedoms, should be part of this venue and partnership between ICAO, its Member States, industry, and other UN agencies will be essential.

FIATA, TIACA, GEA and IPCSA also pay tribute to and thank Dr Fang Liu, who is stepping down as Secretary General of ICAO after six years, and who has been a strong advocate for cargo during her tenure.