International Air Transport Association




December 2008



The 188th IATA Board of Governors meeting concluded in Geneva on December 5th, 2008. The board confirmed the vital importance of IATA e-freight in the deteriorating economic environment, approving a revised business case that dramatically increases savings to the air cargo industry.

The supply chain will benefit from annual savings of up to US$4.9 billion, including:

  • Up to US$1.7 billion in reduced document processing costs
  • Up to US$1.7 billion in inventory savings for shippers
  • Up to US$1.8 billion in savings due to increased market share from sea-freight

These figures are based on the industry achieving 100% e-freight, replacing 16 documents with electronic messages, and organic growth of freight volumes. Were the industry to achieve 80% e-freight, the supply chain savings would be US$3.1 billion annually.

Other benefits include:

  • Faster shipments: the ability to send shipment documentation before the cargo itself can reduce the industry cycle time by an average of 24 hours.
  • Greater accuracy: Electronic document auto population – allowing one time electronic data entry at point of origin - reduces delays to shipments due to inaccurate or inconsistent data entry. Electronic documents are also less likely to be misplaced, so shipments will not be delayed because of missing documentation.
  • Better tracking: Data entered electronically gives organisations the opportunity to track shipments en route – allowing for real-time status updates.
  • Better for the environment: IATA e-freight will eliminate more than 7,800 tonnes of paper documents, the equivalent of 80 Boeing 747 freighters.

The complete business case is in the IATA e-freight Handbook. The handbook is the comprehensive guide to implementation and is available free of charge on the IATA e-freight website.

Built by the supply chain, for the supply chain

Facilitated by IATA, the project is an industry-wide initiative involving carriers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, shippers and customs authorities. “We are committed to getting everyone involved,” said Steve Smith, IATA e-freight Project Director. “Our ability to deliver this kind of industry change is based on developing a product that works for everyone.”

To date, 31 freight forwarders are involved in IATA e-freight. Several shippers and freight forwarders are members of the e-freight Advisory Group (eAG), which sets out project strategy, processes, and required standards.

Picking up speed: more locations, more volume and more documents in ‘09

In one year, the number of IATA e-freight locations has tripled, from six in 2007 to 18 in 2008. “This is a significant achievement, particularly given the fact that countries must pass two levels of assessments – the first of which involves ratification of international treaties – to be endorsed as ready for IATA e-freight,” added Steve Smith.

In 2009 five more locations – Belgium, China, Japan, Malaysia and Switzerland – will become e-freight live. Belgium, China and Malaysia will need to first complete LAPs (Local Action Plans that meet the assessment criteria). Fourteen more airports will also become e-freight live. Half of these airports will be in the USA. Three more documents – the Dangerous Goods Shipper’s Declaration, Transfer Manifest and Shipper’s Letter of Instruction – will be replaced by electronic messages, bringing the total number of messages to 16. Finally, the project will focus on adding additional stakeholders in locations already live – through the use of the handbook.

By the end of 2010, locations that account for 81% of all international freight will be e-freight capable, paving the way for the supply chain to realise these savings.

How to get involved

  • The IATA e-freight homepage provides up-to-date information on the e-freight status of countries around the world. Find out which locations are live and which airlines and freight forwarders are participating.
  • In 2009 IATA e-freight will host a series of workshops around the world, offering stakeholders the opportunity to interact with subject matter experts. A list of workshops will be made available on the website in early 2009.
  • To provide feedback or for further information, please contact us at

The StB Global Team



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