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   Dubai among 11 e-freight ready sites

Dubai has been identified as one of 11 new locations ready for e-freight by International Air Transport Association (IATA), the aviation trade body said yesterday. Other locations include the US, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Norway.

"The momentum to rid air cargo of costly paper processes is building quickly," said Giovanni Bisignani, Director-General & Chief Executive Officer of IATA. "Already we are live in six locations today. We will be operating at 14 locations by year-end," he added.

E-freight is one of six "Simplifying the Business" projects being led by IATA to improve service and cut costs. The initiative is aimed at allowing importers and exporters to perform 51 customs transactions electronically without having to physically visit the customs centres.

The industry has set a deadline of the end of 2010 for the implementation of e-freight where feasible. Since 2007, e-freight has been operational in six locations including Canada, Sweden, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Netherlands. A further three–Germany, Mauritius and South Korea have launched projects to go live within 2008, IATA said in a statement, adding that five of the 11 new locations will be selected to launch e-freight in 2008 with the remaining targeted for launch in 2009.

That IATA has shortlisted Dubai among another countries is not a surprise. The Middle East air cargo growth is the highest among all other regions in the world – 9.5 per cent in 2007, and is expected to go back to its earlier double-digit growth in coming years.

Besides, Dubai Logistics City, a core component of the US$33-billion (Dh121bn) Dubai World Central – the urban aviation community being built in Jebel Ali – is gearing up to be the largest logistics hub in the region. And the adjacent Al Maktoum International airport – set to be the world's largest – has already captured global attention. \According to DLC, it adds to DLC's value proposition of turn around lead times in sea-air cargo to as little as four hours. "Dubai World Central's unique approach is targeted specifically at global and regional players, allowing them to set up base in an established and growing market," Michael Proffitt, chief executive of DLC, had said recently. DLC offers unrivalled centralised logistics services for Asian and Western businesses.

DLC's phase one, which will start operations by end of this year, has already been leased out and every major global player has either expressed interest or leased land within DLC, according to Proffitt.

Furthermore, IATA e-freight requires that business, technical and legal frameworks are in place to allow airlines, freight forwarders, customs administrations and governments to seamlessly exchange electronic information and e-documents instead of paper.

Emirates SkyCargo signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Dubai Customs in March this year as part of a global initiative to reduce paperwork and expedite the movement of goods in the air cargo supply chain.

As Bisignani points out: "The industry is in crisis. Record fuel prices and sagging demand growth will drive an industry loss of US$2.3 billion during 2008. We need to simplify and modernise our business. The 100 per cent e-ticketing move was an important step forward. E-freight is another. It will deliver much-needed efficiency and US$1.2bn in cost savings while responding to shippers' demands for improved reliability and more speed."

IATA said that in the months ahead, teams of experts from participating airlines, freight forwarders, shippers and customs organisations in each of the 11 locations would create local implementation teams.

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