Doug Brittin was appointed to the post of Secretary General for TIACA (The International Air Cargo Association) last August (2013). Brittin, who has been involved in the air cargo industry for over three decades, told the AJOT in a recent interview that moving to the Miami-based group “was a good fit” after a career working with air industry icons like BAX Global, Panalpina, Emery and Menlo Worldwide. His last stop prior to joining TIACA was with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as Air Cargo Manager, where he was responsible for the development of the Certified Cargo Screening Program, as well as policy, forwarder programs and screening technology development. “TIACA,” Brittin, explained, “is the only group that covers the full spectrum of the air cargo industry.”
The members of the non-profit trade association run the gamut from air cargo carriers, aircraft builders and equipment manufacturers to companies throughout the length of the supply chain. In recent years, TIACA has done an outreach to build its membership globally and to represent the industry in discussion with international regulatory groups like the WCO, ICAO, UNCTAD, OECD and others.
Having been on the other side of the regulatory process during the TSA years, Brittin is sensitive to relationships between regulatory regimes and the industry at large.
In October 2013 in Montreal, an agreement was hammered out by 191 nations at the International Civil Aviation Organization General Assembly to develop a global market-based measure for aviation emissions from 2020. It was a major breakthrough, but the EC (European Commission) unilaterally decided on its own procedures, mitigating the work done at the ICAO.
“No common ground…they implemented the measure,” Brittin lamented. “We need to work out a global common platform,” he added. In the absence of the Montreal agreement, “We [TIACA] have to be a voice for the industry to bring to the front of the member states [EU] the potential side effects…the unexpected impacts on the cost of goods,” that the lack of a global emissions regime might have on both the industry and the trading bloc itself.
Data Collection, Analysis & Distribution
Perhaps because Brittin’s fresh from the TSA experience, he feels that data collection, analysis and distribution is the “challenge on the table” for the air cargo industry. As Brittin sees it, the issue permeates every aspect of the movement of airfreight through the supply chain. “Air cargo is built on speed, and if data [collection and analysis] tools, [particularly in the security realm] aren’t working and the cargo is delayed…there is no speed.”
Last year, TIACA asked the TSA to certify that its 100% cargo screening level on passenger aircraft had been achieved and to use its authority to immediately remove the ongoing requirement to report cargo-screening data. The requirement is included in the standard security programs covering various participants in the air cargo supply chain and requires considerable input from the industry. And it isn’t solely a US issue.
Last year, Brittin in his address to the WCO (World Customs Organization) Annual Technical Experts Group on Air Cargo Security Conference in Brussels, warned customs regulators against taking unilateral action to require submission of certain customs information for all air cargo shipments, in advance of aircraft departure.
“While we [TIACA] are aware of the goal, we must make sure that all the parties understand… we need to establish universal protocols.”
He told delegates at the Brussels meeting, “we recommend that all regulatory parties coordinate this process through the WCO and that they consult more closely with industry before they move forward on establishing regulations.”
Brittin believes that the industry and regulatory regimes should work to establish common procedures for security regulators to ensure common cargo screening methods are in place after the analysis process is completed. Some country specific advance data programs have already been tested by customs regulators, like the ACAS program in the US, PRECISE in Europe and PACT in Canada. However, how these data systems will work in the global environment is still open to debate.
Brittin also is concerned about issues such as safety and dangerous goods, pointing out the shipment of lithium batteries and other dangerous cargos “aren’t going away.” He also is keenly aware of the e-environment – the ability for air forwarders to operate across the spectrum is a key to operational survival. “We’re all moving towards e-commerce, but for the smaller forwarders this can be a challenge.”
Overall, Brittin is confident in the air cargo sector. Since 2009, there has been an increasing disconnect between air passenger revenues and air cargo revenues. The exception to these results is the performance on the heavy-lift niche cargo side of the airfreight business. With less demand from the military and the return of more heavy lift capacity, this side of the market will likely be impacted by a slowdown also.
The question of the moment is what impact will a rising GDP in countries like the US have on freight movements? As Brittin, said, “In the old days, air was a prognosticator of the economy. If airfreight was increasing, there was the feeling that people wanted the cargo now, and that in turn the economy was improving.”
Certainly, rising fuel prices and overcapacity and a global economy that rocks and reels crisis to crisis has impacted airfreight. Brittin says improvements in communications among all parties engaged in the regulatory process can certainly improve the bottom line for just about everybody.