The electronic airway bill has been operating in practice for quite some time. However some common questions and misconceptions remain. Some of these include:
The eAWB is a term that refers to digital form of a paper air way bill. The initiative is managed by International Air Transport Association (IATA), an organization that helps advise on key topics in the air cargo industry. The electronic airway bill includes two parts- the way bill details as well as the contract of carriage. Both of these requirements are digitized in the initiative.
Implementing the eAWB does not mean adopting the entire eFreight initiative. eFreight is a larger program of which the eAWB is one part. The eAWB is a practical and fundamental practice that is already resulting in real benefits to forwarders and is the first necessary step along the path to eFreight.
The eAWB is simple to on-board in only a few steps. As more and more carriers charge for paper airway bills, the complexity and cost lies in not on-boarding. The experience of many previous forwarders has blazed a trail for newcomers to easily implement the eAWB in a streamlined process.
The electronic airway bill is digital information that can be re-purposed and reformatted to paper. It is important to ensure that information is digitized first, and paper produced on-demand. For those trade lanes and shipments that still require paper, a digital system with hard copies created as needed is often sufficient for recordkeeping.
The Single Process approach to eAWB adoption is helping many forwarders spend less time deciding whether a digital airway bill should be provided for a trade lane or scenario. Forwarders simply provide all data to a carrier that then sorts and routes the information. Systems are also available that can pull the required details for transmission to multiple carriers.
No, you may use other solutions. Many carriers offer portals for entering eAWB details; however, these systems do not offer validation and decrease efficiency as forwarders switch context and focus. In addition, forwarders cannot re-use the information entered for other purposes—the data is often purely for the benefit of the carrier.
The fundamentals of the eAWB exist within legacy systems. Forwarders do not have to re-enter information in a portal if the data already exists in legacy platforms, even older systems. The functionality to extract this data already exists in the market today from Cargo Community System (CCS) providers. Information can also be obtained from agents or customers with older technology in place.
With a large number of documentation and security requirements in the air cargo industry, forwarders and carriers alike can be inundated with paper and recordkeeping requirements. Digitizing paper-based processes, including airway bills, can lead to significant increases in operational efficiency.