Vol. 11 No. 26                                                                                                                          Thursday March 15, 2012

 Kuala Lumpur Exclusive—For those who are not in KL this week at IATA’s World Cargo Symposium (WCS) here is a positive note – since his appointment, IATA Director General Tony Tyler (right) has taken a different approach including actually speaking directly with the forwarders who represent their organization, FIATA, and specifically, the Air Freight Institute (AFI) as the only formal body for airline/forwarder industry level dialogue, the IATA/FIATA Consultative Council (IFCC).
      By way of background the IFCC has been around for a long time, with some of its forwarder members having served for over twenty years in some cases.
      IFCC is supposed to review and provide input on all matters that end up on the agenda of the Cargo Agency Conference (CAC).
      Suffice it to say that although always dishing up effervescent discussions, in the course of the last decade the relationship has deteriorated dramatically, taking on overt hostile tones and action that peaked at last year’s WCS in Istanbul.
      It may have all been a sign of the times; the cargo business has evolved and forwarders have become customers of the airlines rather than acting in their original role as agents. While in the real world things played out, the institutional wrangling worsened because IATA and FIATA were increasingly at odds over fundamental changes needed in the industry framework to reflect the new state of affairs.
      It is therefore encouraging hearing Tony Tyler talk about the IFCC and how important it was for everybody to work together and get on the same page.
      That is a welcome breath of fresh air and Des Vertannes as IATA global head of cargo is certainly well placed to deliver.
      Looking back at how things unraveled, matters had reached the absolute low point in 2010, culminating in a lawsuit with IATA suing FIATA following the termination of ending the joint IATA/FIATA training programs.
      Surprisingly Flying Typers was made mention of on the CAC agenda under policy items, according to some documents obtained by Flying Typers.
      Under agenda item P/4, FIATA – AFI [FIATA Air Freight Institute] Position on IATA Agency Program/IATA Relationship! A rather lengthy text takes on the fundamentals of the IATA/FIATA disagreement.
      – “An advisory body, being the IATA /FIATA Consultative Council (IFCC) was established to provide a forum for dialogue with forwarders. It has a broad mandate and was intended to discuss, ahead of meetings, Cargo Agency Program issues of concern to forwarders.”
      Apparently it did not quite fulfill this requirement and subsequent agenda items submitted by FIATA make no bones about the high degree of dissatisfaction the forwarders experienced with IATA and equally clearly, to express the desire for and a call to reshape and rebalance the relationship to reflect business realities.
      This would seem to be the preferable outcome; particularly given the determination by the forwarders to go their own way, if all else fails.
      The agenda item goes on to say:
      “On September 2, 2011 an article was published by FlyingTypers ‘IATA Versus FIATA In Lawsuit’ that asked some very pertinent questions of the carriers who IATA purports to represent:
      FIATA does not want or need intervention of Cargo Committee on the litigation. We have good lawyers and are confident of our position, but it reinforces the points made by FlyingTypers about the relationship with IATA and who speaks for the Cargo Carriers

            • Who authorized the lawsuit within IATA?
            • Was the Cargo Committee made aware or consulted?
            • Do you know what precipitated the lawsuit?
            • Has IATA kept you informed about how and why they are in Court?

      For the record—whatever the answers to these questions, they have not yet been available to us or we assume anyone else.
      The forwarders cite the ongoing dialogue with IATA Director General, Tony Tyler, initiated around the September 2011 Cargo Committee meeting to which the FIATA – AFI had been invited, as a step in the right direction.
      The kicker is in the last sentence of this agenda item which boils it down to the essence of the matter at hand: “… however it remains to be seen what results this [conference action] will bring”. Even more telling is the rather weak ‘proposed action’ in this agenda item that reflects on the prospect of low expectations “Conference to note and is invited to provide written comments to FIATA – AFI”.
      Rather than paraphrase, the best way to illustrate where the relationship stands is that the CAC agenda contains fourteen more policy items by FIATA – AFI, and one that puts it all into perspective, holding out the promise of better cooperation, under the right conditions:
      “From this document it is clear that FIATA seeks substantive and urgent change to the IATA Agency Programme and the IATA Relationship. FIATA – AFI recognizes that such important changes will require time, cooperation and commitment, and feels that it is reasonable to expect these changes to become effective by March 2013.
      In the interim FIATA has an obligation to support and protect the interests of the global freight forwarding industry, including those forwarders who are deemed Cargo Agents under the IATA Agency Programme. Therefore, FIATA continues to advocate on behalf of its members, and has delivered to the CAC Secretary Agenda Submissions to the CAC/40, which are relevant to the Agent’s interests, and require action.
      However, FIATA does so with the full knowledge and understanding that in the near future, it is expected that substantive change, replacing the current Agency Program with a dialogue process between equal parties, will make various submissions no longer relevant.”

      With IATA Director General and former Cathay Pacific cargo executive Tony Tyler in the house all week long at WCS in Kuala Lumpur, hope is in the air that this ongoing rift may be brought to some kind of conclusion.
      Between meetings, Des Vertannes (left) IATA Global Head of Cargo notes that a framework basis for a resolution has been advanced “with some final touches yet to be applied”.
      “I think that you will be hearing some positive news as the conference ends this week,” Des said.

Click Image Above For A Virtual Tour Of SkyCargo Mega Terminal

     The year is 2006.
     We are sitting in a room upstairs in the Emirates Sky Cargo complex at Dubai International Airport.
     SkyCargo is in a cargo transfer facility that is virtually bursting at the seams.
     While the boss of operations, Dave Gould, sits in a small office (made even more compact by the presence of a big passenger area DC10 model, recalling his former airline, British Caledonian), Sunimal Fernando is just down the hall poring over detailed plans of the big new Mega Terminal that Emirates will build to handle their global air cargo business via hub Dubai.
     In just 20 years, EK has gone from a nobody in the air cargo business to assuming a leadership role in the Middle East, and is continuing its climb to becoming one of the biggest fastest growing and most respected air cargo airlines in the world.

     Sunimal has been working at Emirates Group since 1994, when he came to the Mega Terminal project as a project manager.
     He has lived in Dubai ever since.
     Sunimal began his airline career in Sri Lanka as a GSA with Singapore Airlines, working the front counter on the import side.
     Today, Sunimal Fernando is manager cargo hub operations and can remember when, moving around the old, vast, non-automated Emirates Dubai Terminal Complex was best handled with a bike.
     When we spoke to him recently he leaned back in his chair and recalled:
     “We opened this place in two phases, beginning in 2008.
     “Now as we approach our fourth anniversary here, with a business that continues to grow as air cargo from all over the world transits Dubai, I guess we can take a deep breath and realize that things worked out quite well.
     But Sunimal, who speaks softly, is also very quick to add:
     “It’s not just me or a few other people that made Mega Terminal number one in the Middle East; it’s been a lot of people working together that are part of our story and success here.
     “We came to the project at a fairly advanced stage, the concessions were already in order, so then we had to do a lot of operations’ planning.
     “We are also fully automated in this terminal, as compared to our old terminal operation.
     “So our move was interesting, to say the least.
     “Since we moved in two different phases, we had to have some kind of operation going on in the old terminal, then half of it had to come here.
     “So for a while, we were actually operating from both terminals.
     “When the second half of the facility was ready, about six months after the first section, the total move was completed.
     “The migration into this building began in September 2007 and was completed when the second phase was ready in 2008.”
     Sunimal notes that today Mega terminal is near capacity and in fact, the former air cargo terminal that was vacated is still utilized.
     “There is still some work we do in the terminal,” he said.
     “The challenge that comes with the growth that we have is to remain at the top of our game and as close as possible to the cargo so we always know where the shipments are.
     “At the end of the day, our business solution never varies; it’s about quality and providing a reliable service that our customers can depend on.
     “Today this Mega Terminal plays into our strength, giving us the ability to move a lot of freight in a very short period of time.
     “In order for us to do that, we need a lot of operational capacity, processing areas, and storage capacity.
     “While we were able to achieve this through automation, we are able to move a lot of freight in a very short period of time from flight to flight because we have cargo that moves within the ramp itself, as well as cargo that transits the warehouse.
     “So typically some shipments need to be quickly broken down and moved onto the outbound flights.
     “At any hub operation, getting the process optimized and moving the freight without problems with regard to misconnecting flights and other connections is always the challenge.
     “With this terminal, we are able to achieve near 100 percent accuracy—we are very close to that, plus we also have the ability to maintain the highest quality standards available anywhere in the industry.
     “We focus a lot on training.
     “Before we opened Mega Terminal, we brought staff here in batches and retrained everyone, including select individuals from different sections, so that they became part of a core team that was expert in operations here.
     “That helped us to do a seamless transition.
     “A big part of what happened here initially was planning our connections.
     “It’s no secret that we connect cargo coming from one part of the world to another part of the world.
     “Studying our different lanes of traffic and then aligning the data that we had with certain sections of this facility to store cargo coming from one region going into another allows us to easily break and build in one area, rather than crossing from one end of the terminal to the other.
     “Since about three quarters of the traffic here is predictable, meaning repeat type business, with Sky Chain handling our hub operations we have a nice, fully automated terminal with about 1,400 people working here.
     “On a periodic basis, say every six months, we look at our connection patterns and see if anything has changed.
     “As example, there could be situations where we see traffic from one region building in a certain season, so in that time we need to make adjustments.
     “Seasonal peaks are there: summertime, holiday time, so those are things we continue to monitor.
     “Mega Terminal Dubai has given us the ability to handle quite a bit more perishables, especially pharmaceuticals.
     “We have different types of solutions for cool chain depending upon the requirement, including, for example, our the cool dollies, which are closed, refrigerated units that have a cooling device to maintain required temperatures after we load the ULD into it.
     “We can also store consignments here in the warehouse at the proper temperatures for extended periods depending on what the customer needs or what the connection patterns are.
     “I suppose the nicest surprise after opening this facility is that today we’ve been able to very consistently maintain a record of about 99.6 percent ‘flown as booked.’
     “The surprise is that we thought migrating from physical handling into automation would be very difficult to track and trace if something went wrong.
     “But what we discovered was that we were and continue to be able to locate and fix the glitches in a very short span of time, usually within 24 hours.
     “At the core of things around here is the ability of our teams to easily get into the system.
     “For example, in this system, if a unit is arriving on a flight, we have already pre-announced it into the system that these are the units expected from this particular flight.
     “At the time of inducting, if anything other than that unit gets into the system the system will give us a notice that we didn’t announce it, but the added unit was received. So if there is a mismatch, our teams are able to follow it quickly and closely.
     “We’ve been surprised by our added ability to anticipate these and other events as a benefit of the automated system.
     “Looking ahead, in order to accommodate the growth that we have, we are needing to move other terminals, so one of the challenges for all of us will be to maintain our level of efficiencies in air cargo handling and operations everywhere.
     “But with the commitment of our people here who continue to deliver a level of expertise and innovation that is the air cargo standard of the world, I look forward to being part of a team that is creating new horizons for transport excellence every day.”


     Coliseum is all about tradition.
     The waiter discreetly puts a bib on the diner (linen not paper or plastic) before the sizzling steak is served.
     The tall chilled glasses of beer (Carlsberg) are served at perfect temperature.
     There is a part of the restaurant where you can eat and drink and smoke at the tables.
     The men’s room urinals are packed with ice just like the finest men’s clubs…
     Later after dinner sit in the bar with a glass of tawny port (Taylor New York State) and imagine yourself here in 1934 with the international set.
     Although you are in Southeast Asia not Africa, spending a few hours at Coliseum is like a scene out of the movie “Casablanca”.
     But oh, the steak served up sizzling with that sauce poivre made with Madagascar black pepper.
     I have traveled around the world and back again, and like most folks in air cargo I count new adventures in far away places as a plus of our lush life humping freight.
     But aside from getting over to big bang whilst on the Malay Peninsula in Kuala Lumpur, there is one stop that I make every time without fail.
     The place is called the Coliseum Café and it is 90 years old and straight out of a Somerset Maugham novel.
     Everybody knows that the intrepid author frequented the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, where he downed his Singapore Slings.
     But this place was also a must-stop watering hole during that period, and by some miracle (unlike The Raffles), it has never changed.
     It remains as if time stood still; although everywhere else it is 2012.
     The Coliseum Café is attached to the quaint, ten room Coliseum Hotel (now closed for renovation) and after a couple of libations, a steak, and a plate of green peas, you can stretch out all the way back to the mid-1920s and imagine when this place was a first stop for writers like Maugham (who wrote many short stories and insightful descriptions of local action in these parts, as in his book Bondage, when he wondered why “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.
     Later, Noel Coward would write a pop hit song using that exact title.
     No doubt, after some hours at The Coliseum you too can imagine what it must have been like here once upon a time. An expansive group of characters traipsed around these parts, with places like the Coliseum serving as touchstones of home and also the center of the action, when Kuala Lumpur was quite different from today.
     Imagine spending a lazy afternoon with some landlords or shipping magnates in white suits, sitting about in rattan straight back chairs with long drinks or short ones (straight and neat), as the day melts away, punctuated with foreign editions of western newspapers pressed neatly and available nearby on long bamboo rods.
     All the while, a pale blue smoke from the Coliseum kitchen wafts over the place as dry aged India beef is grilled and served up as exquisitely prepared sizzling steaks.

     Expect other great food choices, like crabmeat baked in a shell.
     The first time I ate that meal in the Coliseum, it took me back to Toledo, Ohio (of all places), where my mother used to deliver crabmeat baked in seashells on Fridays, and my Dad, a butcher by trade, reserved Sundays to fry up the biggest German sausages imaginable that would smoke up the entire downstairs.
     For me, Coliseum Café is comfort food in familiar surroundings.
     But you either get it or you don’t, so don’t go over to this joint between meetings or to impress a client or if you are in a hurry.
     Coliseum Café is no ‘chew & screw’ experience.
     First of all, the place is 90 years old and some of the staff are about the same age.
     And forget about fancy.
     Coliseum is worn tile floors and threadbare linens, once described in a Frommers guidebook as:
     “KL's authentic greasy spoon."
     “But the place is legendary, and someday it will be gone and there will never be anything else like it,” Frommers rightfully concluded.
Coliseum is a quick 12 minute walk or a 20 minute cab ride from the Shangri La Hotel where WCS is taking place this week. Coliseum Café, 98-100 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur. Phone 03/2692-6270

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Thanks to Emirates Airline for providing FlyingTypers transportation
To IATA World Cargo Symposium Kuala Lumpur 2012