United States Customs joins IATA Cargo-XML standard

IATA Cargo-XML standard

The United States Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) agency has announced it is adopting the Cargo-XML standard. This is a schema promoted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for e-communications between airlines and other freight industry stakeholders. Through this standard, which replaces Cargo-IMP, the organization aims to streamline processes associated with the sector, while enhancing security and boosting efficiency.

The US CBP plans to roll out a project plan with this new schema in September. A few months later, airlines, freight forwarders and logistic operators may start using Cargo-XML standard in their communications with the customs authorities. However, in an initial phase, the new schema will only be used in exports. It will be extended to imports at a later date.

A total of four message types may be exchanged electronically:

  • XFWB – XML Waybill
  • XFZB – XML House Waybill
  • XFFM – XML Flight Manifest
  • XFNM – XML Response Message

The CBP’s acceptance of the Cargo-XML schema will be an endorsement of this standard for the entire air freight industry worldwide. The IATA’s goal is for communications in the sector to eventually become fully paperless.

EDICOM Air, an international solution

The IATA-certified EDICOM Air platform is a solution that lets you automate the creation of air freight documents in line with the Cargo-XML standard. Moreover, the platform is of global scope, designed to connect with the airlines, forwarding agents and customs of any airport adapted to this electronic schema worldwide. Among them, connectivity with the US CBP will also soon be possible.

Digital connectivity in the air freight sector

IATA publishes a guide to encourage the uptake of more efficient digital communication systems that enhance sector efficiency and security

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published a White Paper on digital connectivity and methodologies for data interchange in the air freight sector. This is a guide designed to facilitate the adoption of more efficient communication systems, which allow faster and more secure connection to all trading partners in the supply chain.

Although electronic messages have existed since the 80s, the air freight sector is still highly paper-reliant. In each shipment, companies generate around 30 documents which subsequently have to be managed manually, which involves excessive costs, long working hours and a wide margin of error.

Faced with this situation, the international organization has set the goal of modernizing the cargo industry with the e-freight program, which aims to do away with paper completely. The first step towards achieving it is implementation of the electronic air waybill (e-AWB), whose overall penetration is currently 39.2%.

These technological breakthroughs also require the rollout of digital connectivity methodologies. In the White Paper published, titled Air Cargo Digital Connectivity and Data Exchange Methodologies, the IATA analyses two main systems. On one hand, the mode designated Host-to-Host and, on the other, commercial connectivity services (CCS) through an intermediary.


What are the differences between the two methods?


The Host-to-Host system consists of direct communication between two trading partners using the same communication protocols. Current estimates show that only 5% of all communications between cargo airlines and forwarding agents take place through this method. The reason for such scant popularity is that a plethora of different protocols are used in this industry, so adopting the system entails great difficulty. Even so, the companies choosing this option mainly go for TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) connectivity or Internet-based protocols, such as FTP or SMTP.

Unlike this methodology, in CCS connectivity the partners make contact with the aid of a service provider specializing in electronic data interchange, such as EDICOM, to act as intermediary. This is the system most widely used by companies in this sector – accounting for 95% of all communications – due to the advantages it entails.

With CCS connectivity, air freight lines and forwarding agents outsource connectivity to a third party. The most common practice consists of implementing a specialist solution, such as EDICOM Air, which is integrated with the company’s management systems and complies with the standard messages promoted by the IATA. This platform then takes care of translating the messages and connecting with the recipient, using the communication protocol required each time. Another advantage of connecting via an intermediary is that it facilitates the adoption of other added value solutions: traceability, safekeeping, portals and applications, etc.


To learn more about digital connectivity and data exchange methodologies in the air freight sector, download the IATA White Paper.



Peru latest to implant electronic air waybill (e-AWB)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) project to remove paperwork from cargo processes continues to grow. The latest country to join the electronic air waybill scheme, known as e-AWB, is Peru. With this measure, the National Customs and Tax Administration (SUNAT) intends to promote supply chain optimization in air transport.

From now on, air waybills will be transmitted electronically. This will lower economic costs, by doing away with traditional management of files on paper, while reducing the number of errors and avoiding the habitual delays in freight loading processes. With the e-AWB, stakeholders involved in freight transport will have continuous monitoring of information in each of the phases, so planning will be more effective.

Another advantage of the new electronic air waybill promoted by IATA is that the data will be more accurate and there will no longer be legibility issues. In addition, the former requirements stipulating storage of these paper documents will no longer hold. In other words, the airlines, freight forwarders, customs authorities and customers will all benefit from a more secure, efficient and faster system.


Teamwork project


As noted by the SUNAT in a public communiqué, the tax agency has been backing the initiative and encouraging use of the e-AWB since last February. To this end, there has been a joint effort with IATA, AETAI and the World Customs Organization (WCO). In fact, as part of the SAFE Framework initiative, the SUNAT and WCO have set out “an international agreement containing 17 standards to enhance security in the logistical supply chain, trading facilities, the fight against corruption and tax collection.” The next step for the SUNAT will be to modernize its IT systems, setting up a communication system in the XML standard recommended by the WCO.

With this measure, Peru joins a global project that is gaining ground in all continents, saving tons of paper each year. Currently, international penetration of the e-AWB is around 39%, and by late 2016 the IATA expects it to reach 56%.


Data flows better electronically


At EDICOM we have developed EDICOMAir, our e-Air Waybill platform, which automatically generates the freight information based on the XML standards set by the IATA. In addition, our solution incorporates data translation mechanisms that let you take the former sector messaging in Cargo IMP format and automatically and transparently generate the new Cargo XML messages regulated by the IATA. These sensitive documents are then sent via secure private communication networks (VANs) to freight forwarders, airlines and customs authorities, providing real-time traceability.

Among the communication possibilities provided by EDICOM’s technological infrastructure, we highlight the connectivity through our Public Administration HUB, a powerful multiprotocol communications module that lets you connect directly and securely with the customs authorities of each country using the new IATA model to declare the standardized Cargo Manifest file.


e-AWB spread in sector over 30% in August

Last August, e-AWB penetration worldwide reached 31,7%, almost 3 points above the figure recorded in July. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), promoter of e-communications in the sector, has set 45% as the target figure to be achieved by the end of 2015.

As we explained in previous posts, the IATA has rolled out a technological initiative to achieve more efficient communications between airlines, freight forwarders and customs authorities. It is estimated that this project, known as e-freight, will help cut down the use of 7800 tons of paper worldwide, while enhancing security and minimizing the time given over to shipment of goods by air.

Among the documents that may be exchanged electronically via the Cargo-XML schema, the e-AWB or electronic air waybill is the most important. This is why its analysis is a key factor in determining the sector’s technological evolution in the e-freight area. According to the IATA, a year ago the penetration of this shipping document was around 19,9%. In other words, 12% below the current figure.

Uneven implementation

The IATA monthly report highlights how more than half the volume of e-AWBs exchanged in August came from only 9 airports: HKG, SIN, ICN, DXB, AMS, TPE, CDG, LHR and ORD. However, this system is already in place in many other airports worldwide (in 456, specifically) and its expansion continues to grow. In fact, it has increased by 20% over the past year..

By regions of origin, the Middle East still leads the field in e-AWB penetration, with a rate of over 58%. Runners-up include Africa (44,3%), Northern Asia (38,2%), Pacific Asia (34,4%), the Americas (28,9%) and Europe (22,7%).

EDICOM, Strategic Partner

EDICOM takes part in IATA’s Strategic Partnership initiative, which brings together leading suppliers of e-solutions for the air freight industry. Through the EDICOMAir platform, airlines and forwarding agents can exchange shipping information automatically and securely, in line with the IATA’s XML standards. In addition, the Public Administrations HUB enables connection with any customs authority. The entire process is carried out efficiently, paperless, with scarcely any human intervention and in record time.

EDICOM Expert Chat – Luis Moreno: “Implementing Cargo-XML cuts freight processing time by 70%”

In this Expert Chat, we interviewed Luis Moreno, Business Manager from EDICOM Mexico. As head of the airfreight sector, he explains the initiatives being rolled out by IATA in the drive to improve operability, cut down on paper use and minimize economic costs.

In particular, we talked about implementation of the Cargo-XML standard, soon to become mandatory in Mexico and Argentina.