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Leadership Views: Brandon Fried, Airforwarders Association

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Denver Transportation Institute

Feature  •

More than 40 industry leaders serve on the TSC Institute's Board. Following on our successful Transportation Talks webinar series, we feature brief thoughts from a member each month. 

Name: Brandon Fried  
Position: Executive Director, Airforwarders Association
Years with the board: 3

brandon fried

Supply chain congestion at the country’s ports is in the news. The Biden Administration has recently enacted executive orders aimed at increasing competition in the industry. What is the position of airforwarders on the congestion problems and what solutions are you advocating? 

Airport and maritime port congestion have harmed virtually all aspects of the global supply chain. Recent issues in Asia and Eastern Europe continue to disrupt the flow of critical goods and materials everywhere, not just here in the United States. While much of the media has focused on concerns such as the backlogs of container ships at U.S. West Coast ports, air cargo has also been unfavorably affected. The effects of aging (and insufficient) cargo area infrastructure at U.S. airports are keenly felt, especially at gateway airports like Chicago O'Hare and Los Angeles International.

The Airforwarders Association (AfA) has been working closely with its members (forwarders, cargo and passenger air carriers, ground handlers, cargo screening entities, and technology providers) to find alternatives. This effort includes working with local airport authorities to find new ways to process air cargo, both export and import, more efficiently and seeking alternatives. As a result, previously underutilized airports such as Rockford International in Illinois and Rickenbacker International outside of Columbus, Ohio, and others, are beginning to expand their air cargo handling capabilities and operations, which has already helped relieve some of the pressure. We are also working with members to continue using passenger airlines' aircraft as pure cargo charters, which has added quite a bit of capacity. But beyond this activity, we continue to work with U.S. authorities to streamline and simplify the many regulatory procedures that exist, which can often be confusing, costly, and time consuming to manage and administer.  
AfA produces a podcast series, and you are the host. Tell us about an episode that particularly interesting or timely from your point of view.

Our member webinars are an effective means to disseminate information on critical issues that affect our industry and make sure that our members are fully informed. For example, we have an upcoming event highlighting a new European Union requirement for the provisions of key data elements on US export shipments, which will go into effect in mid-2023. This new program, called PLACI (Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information), will require freight forwarders and air carriers to submit additional information to European country authorities before loading a shipment onto an aircraft. The overseas authorities will assess risk factors on each consignment and, where necessary, require cargo holding for further investigation and additional security screening. This requirement will add to the industry's burden to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the information and the need to protect and control the data, given today's heightened concerns about cybersecurity. In most cases, PLACI will require updated IT systems on the part of the industry to comply. We're working closely with other industry groups in Europe to ensure we provide the highest level of information and help our members prepare for this new challenge. 
You are an expert on cargo security. What keeps you up at night about cargo security?

Many issues cause a great deal of concern in the air cargo and forwarding industry. The constant concern is not just about security but also the safety of passengers and the flying public. In addition, we remain concerned about the welfare of the aircraft crews and other employees who work in the air cargo supply chain.
The movement of lithium batteries within the air cargo system is one of our primary safety concerns. As these power devices have become increasingly important in everything from laptops to automobiles, their global transport by air has also increased significantly. If improperly packaged or even mislabeled, these batteries can cause a hazard and have already triggered severe fires and damage to some all-cargo (freighter) airplanes. In addition, shipments of these batteries and other items classified as "Dangerous Goods," if undeclared by the shipper or improperly declared to avoid extra fees and proper handling, can lead to more tragic incidents and the potential loss of innocent lives. 
Another area of concern is the high level of regulations our industry faces. While we can agree that laws about security are necessary, those that are poorly written or not uniformly enforced or interpreted by numerous government inspectors can create a great deal of confusion. And such perplexity can lead to inadvertent handling errors. In addition, some of the regulations we face may seem excessive while not applying equally across the various parts of the air cargo supply chain. The Airforwarders Association works closely with regulators and legislators to help mitigate these issues. Unfortunately, we have seen numerous instances where the regulations for the forwarding segment do not properly mesh with those written for other industry stakeholders, which causes not only the potential for misinterpretation but also costly delays.
We all do our best to provide for the security of the traveling public and the shipping community. But as we have seen, with incidents such as narcotics or weapons smuggled onto aircraft in a seemingly secure airport environment, nefarious actors always could embed themselves into some element of the supply chain, potentially bypassing security measures. We continually remind our community to be highly vigilant about this insider threat. So, again, to echo a Department of Homeland Security motto, "If you see something, say something!"