Cargo association urges governments to facilitate air cargo movements

The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) has said the work of a specially created ICAO “COVID-19 Technical Group” is beginning to achieve results through its efforts to facilitate the flow of air cargo across the world.

The group combines expertise related to COVID-19 crisis from several groups including representatives from the World Health Organization, International Air Transport Association, Airports Council International and Global Express Association. The World Customs Organization (WCO) will also join the group’s meetings from next week.  

The new group, working in cooperation with the ICAO Technical Group, produced a Letter (Ref.: EC 6/3-20/46), that highlighted the vital nature of air cargo and urged “the facilitation of entry, departure and transit of aircraft engaged in relief flights and to implement all measures to facilitate the receipt of aid, including overflight and landing rights and necessary privileges and immunities for relief units.”

ICAO sent the letter to all Member States on March 18.

Vladimir Zubkov, secretary general of TIACA commented: “On Monday, for instance, I received a letter from the Russian authorities that specifically stated that flight crews were exempt from the 14-day quarantine.

“It’s a very resolute message to the States and we are seeing some initial results. It’s a collective effort and we are working tirelessly to ensure that ICAO Member States commit to taking action.”

TIACA said it has also written to the Ministers of Transport of Somalia and Djibouti to ask them to reconsider their decisions to include air cargo in the ban on all international flights within their respective countries.

Steven Polmans, chairman of TIACA, added: “To expand the coverage, we invited both TIACA members and those who are not, to contribute by specifying their problems, and received already inputs from airlines, airports and logistics companies. It will be used in working with our international partners.”

Several countries have taken measures to issue exemptions for crew members of cargo flights from quarantine and allow all cargo flights to continue to operate, but TIACA said there is still an enormous amount of work to be done.

It has also raised other issues with decision-makers and the international community, including the following:

  • The existing structure of commercial rights within bilateral and multilateral agreements imposes restrictions on the necessity for quick change in air routes: the need to allow airlines to quickly change the geography of the flights depending on the urgency of deliveries.
  • Slots at airports remain a problem: airports must release slots for cargo operations.
  • Some countries do not allow transit of certain goods through their territories.

A TIACA statement concluded: “The situation is developing extremely quickly, but the ICAO Technical Group and TIACA as the voice of air cargo have come together in this unprecedented crisis to put forward concrete solutions and provide information to all stakeholders.”