Cargo Network Services (CNS) President
Lionel Van Der Walt had it all
on the table earlier this month.
He hosted the U.S. cargo universe
and industry conferees from around
the world in Orlando, Florida
at the first CNS Partnership Conference
of his own making since being
named CNS President.
Lionel earnestly wants to get
things right for this venerable
organization. He maintains his
sharp sense and sensibility, delivering
value for money. Now that he’s
post-conference, he’s ready
to address the event in detail.
But more on that later.
While FlyingTypers attended
the CNS event, your editor was
up and about at 0600 for a brisk
walk around the golf course and
beautifully manicured grounds,
carefully ducking the early morning
sprinklers that keep the place
By 0630 I was in the Starbucks
just off the lobby to jumpstart
the heart and read the morning
It wasn’t too early for
Lionel, who ducked into the coffee
shop for a chat before checking
the CNS 0700 breakfast buffet
set up for the trade show.
I was immediately impressed that
this new CNS President was up
on his toes and taking nothing
Lionel was the first voice that
the delegates heard. He set the
table for the new day after recapping
the event “so far.”
Far So Good
In our coffee shop encounter,
Lionel gave us insight into his
first Partnership Conference.
explains, “it appears that
the vast majority of the record
603 attendees were very satisfied
with the venue, the annual golf
tournament, the meetings, the
exhibition space, evening functions,
and the many networking opportunities.
“However,” he assures,
“as always there is room
“It’s the first year
that we managed such a large exhibition
space and more needs to be done
to add value for the exhibitors,
e.g. facilitating meetings with
“It’s great to serve
lunch in the exhibition area;
however, there was very limited
table space to enjoy the meals.
It’s a small detail that
makes a big difference. Standing
around trying to network and eat
with a plate of food and a drink
in your hands just doesn’t
“Another related point was
the swift and efficient manner
in which the hotel team cleared
the food and refreshment stations
after each break.
“While this was very efficient,
it isn’t very customer focused.
“If you were running late
there was a very real risk that
you might miss a meal or a much
needed refreshment during the
“This has been noted and
our team will be paying close
attention to these details at
our next Partnership in Palm Springs
With that comment Lionel moved
out of the coffee shop to oversee
another day of CNS Partnership.
Everyone Is An Early Bird
Fast-forward seven days, and it
is now post-CNS Partnership Conference.
Lionel Van Der Walt has thought
about the entire offering end
to end. His observations are both
candid and revealing.
“One feature at CNS we keep
getting wrong is our ambitious
morning plenary sessions organized
for both the first and the second
day of the conference.
“We thought it would be
possible to lure attendees to
these sessions by strengthening
the content being presented. However,
the message is crystal clear and
we will not be making the same
“The CNS Partnership Conference
is first and foremost an opportunity
to do business, develop partnerships,
“That is ultimately the
reason why attendees are there—not
to attend nice plenary sessions
when they could be doing business.
“However, in saying that,
we also recognize that there is
a group of attendees that value
these sessions, but they typically
only make up 20-25 percent of
& Plenary Sessions For 2018
“With the aforementioned
in mind, and after much debate,
we have agreed with the Advisory
Board that in 2018, there will
only be one main plenary session,
from the start of the morning
until the first coffee break on
“This two-hour slot will
be the main plenary session of
the conference and all attendees
will be urged to be there.
“Thereafter, CNS will host
and support a number of smaller
interactive sessions, panels,
workshops, etc. the remainder
of day one and on day two.”
“We are open to suggestions
as we work to get this right and
I would love to hear industry
thoughts on our new format.”
“And now,” Lionel
said, lowering his gaze with a
faint smile, “for the “elephant
in the room.”
“We have received a lot
of contrasting feedback after
last week’s keynote speaker,
Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen.
“Some attendees found his
session to be thought provoking,
while others passionately expressed
their displeasure at the session.
“The one thing it did achieve
without a doubt is to stimulate
“I would dare to speculate
that for good or bad, this was
the most discussed topic at this
On The Future
“I don’t think there
is anybody that can argue that
the air cargo industry is in need
of some much needed transformation.
“We just have too much paper
still present in the value chain.
“However, this is a broader
industry issue that reflects badly
on all stakeholders, be it government,
airlines, freight forwarders,
ground handlers, etc.
“We have not been very good
as an industry when it comes to
adopting seamless, transparent,
electronic data driven processes
“With over 50 percent eAWB
transactions now in the U.S.,
we are making progress, however,
you just have to ask those working
on the frontline as to how much
paper they are still using and
it becomes glaringly evident that
we still have a significant way
to go before getting rid of all
the old outdated, paper-based
processes and procedures.
“It is not easy, and many
times government regulation drives
the need for paper. At the best
of times [government] is very
slow to adapt to the new modern
world we live in.”
Room For Improvement
“Also, it needs to be noted
that most of the large forwarders,
airlines, ground handlers, etc.
have made significant investments
to modernize their systems and
“There is always room for
improvement though in the fast
paced and ever changing technological
world we live in.
“The biggest concern lies
with the small to medium stakeholders
who don’t always have the
resources to make such changes
and at such regular intervals.
“This is where a significant
proportion of our investment and
attention should be focused.”
Taking Over The World
The question is whether new companies,
including Flexport, will take
over the world from the so-called
“I don’t think so,”
Lionel said, “well not quite
yet, at least.”
“I think these established
stakeholders have much going for
them in terms of experience, proven
results, and yes, the all important
aspect of customer service.
“After all, this is a people-driven
business that today depends on
those all-important, one-to-one
relationships in order to get
To Listen Is At Hand
However, we all need to pay close
attention and make sure that we
are learning what we can from
progressive startups such as Flexport.
“Without a doubt, there
are lessons to be learned.”
For The Next Gen
“This brings me to address
one of my biggest concerns: attracting
younger generations to our industry.
“The lack of participation
from this group was clearly evident
at our conference.
“We need them if we are
to secure a sustainable future
for the industry going forward.
“Programs like Expeditors’
initiative is a bright spot in
an effort to reach out to new
“Air cargo needs to mount
a concerted effort here.
“What concerns me equally
though is the number of experienced
people leaving the industry.
“These are the very people
we need to transfer skills and
knowledge to the younger generations.
“It’s a balancing
act, which, if not managed correctly,
could have disastrous results
for the industry down the line.
“It’s not just all
about Millennials and Next Gens,
but just as importantly our future
as an industry must include protecting
the vast amount of knowledge and
skills that that will be exiting
the industry in the next decade
“The people that follow
us in air cargo are going to demand
new ways of doing things based
on their view of the world, but
this is no different to what we
did with the generations that
preceded us, who insisted that
emails were no substitute for
handwritten letters; who insisted
that it will never be safe to
transact over the internet, and
the list goes on.
“We are all going to have
to face this humbling truth one
“Thanks to each and every
one who joined us in Orlando at
“It was a privilege having
the opportunity to spend time
with you and I look forward to
working even harder to deserve
your trust and support and, of
course, our continuing the great
debate,” Lionel said.
The next CNS Partnership Conference
is at La Quinta Resort, Palm Springs,
May 6-8, 2018.