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   Vol. 23 No. 10
Wednesday February 28, 2024

Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?

Steven Polmans

     Greek theatre saw its climax with the establishment of catharsis, when the difficult plot of the play, often a tragedy, was resolved through the phenomenon of anagnorisis, or agnition. In time, the initially simple stage process got jumbled, as reaching the climax through the agnition was becoming more and more difficult. But theatre in ancient Greece was no trinket, it was a very important affair, with big political implications. Can we say . . . it was their equivalent to our television? With no catharsis on stage most of the objectives were at risk and the audiences’ favor could falter. Keeping the public glued to its seat was imperative, something had to be done. In order to maintain the popular interest by ensuring a happy ending (not always), there came an ingenious solution which was named i.e. 'god from the machine'. When Greece culturally conquered Rome, which politically had conquered Greece, with its conspicuous legacy of civilization (in Horace: Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes intulit agresti Latio), the expression was translated into Latin and this is the term that has transcended many centuries and is still in use today: deus ex machina.
     Why am I saying this? In a not so far-fetched situation, which includes a number of our aficionados and friends, one for all, TIACA, perhaps we need a god to appear on the scene from a machine, before all things must pass . . .
     Let us get into this plot and explain what we have in mind. Next week in South America, beautiful São Paulo hosts the 28th gathering of Intermodal South America (ISA) 2024, being held March 5-7 at São Paulo Expo Brazil. With more than 500 confirmed exhibitions Intermodal South America is the “Big Daddy” of logistics trade shows in South America for this year and it will appear in four pavilions at the exhibition center, delivering the latest trends in the industry, solutions, services, and equipment to the event, along with plenty of technology and innovation! This is a wonderful opportunity indeed for the industry and for the entire continent.
     In this age where hope for some adjacent rippling impact cannot be neglected, TIACA launches its first #TIACAEventLatinAmerica, March 7-8 stating hopefully: “Our event will draw industry leaders from across the globe for our first, a two-day meeting at Gran Estanplaza Berrini Hotel.” From any point of view an event that cannot be missed, plausibly this was arranged with the objective of catching hold of some of ISA traffic and excitement. We sincerely hope for TIACA and for the industry that both events will benefit from one another’s influence.
     There is however something that we believe is worth noting and may not necessarily be completely positive: TIACA is chaired by Steven Polmans for an additional term as decided in Brussels last year and it has located its event about a half hour away from the Intermodal Expo Center in São Paulo. Half an hour in a city like São Paulo is not a negligible distance, in particular if you come from places where transportation is organized in a different manner. Aside from anything else, it is not so certain that many ISA attendees will spend additional days in Brazil talking logistics, after an estimated 100 speakers deliver more than 60 hours of content to an estimated audience of 40K who are expected to attend Intermodal South America, but on the other hand one could say that even if a fraction decided to do it, this would give TIACA wings to fly. Considering how difficult it is to gather a big audience today for any trade association, it is a worthy attempt. We wish them well and, if the numbers are decent, Polmans will be hailed as the deus ex machina of this play. . . This being said, recently we have registered reasons for concern, and to a certain degree we share them. Obviously we can be wrong, but we have the right to have an opinion and we have the duty to make it clear for our readers, as here follows.
     We are a publication and we consider it our duty to deliver content, news and opinions, in particular in our field of action, i.e. aviation, logistics, air cargo and the people who populate this wonderful business. We speak freely and independently about these wonderful people and their choices, their successes and, as it happens, sometimes of their retreats. We speak of them, not for them.

Air Cargo News booth, 1982 Air Cargo Forum
1982—Our Air Cargo News booth at the last Air Cargo Forum organized by the SAE at the Hilton Hotel in New York City.

     Speaking of The International Air Cargo Association, we wonder how did TIACA, this idea founded in the USA originally by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), itself begun in 1905 by people like Henry Ford, for all appearances end up being controlled by one publication? Steve Polmans, who had already served for two terms, reappeared at that post once more as TIACA Board changed the by-laws and extended the two-term limit rule. Our media check reveals that Steve Polmans, TIACA Chairman, is also now the Managing Director of Air Cargo Week, a publication owned by Audrey Serjebi’s LemonQueen PR agency, which also serves as the advertising and PR outfit for some major airline and air cargo companies. We are in the year of the dragon, but it seems the dragon could be flaming on its own tail here? TIACA is chaired by a publisher who also serves as MD of a publication that competes with scores of other cargo media.
     We are not sure that this situation is in line with TIACA’s stated mission: “TIACA supports its members and works with industry partners and regulators to advocate and drive change for a safe, profitable and united air cargo industry.” At first sight, the deus ex machina in this performance seems to be unable to resolve the plot, which becomes thicker and seems to move farther away from catharsis. As baseball returns in the U.S., TIACA’s position reminds us of a book written by Jimmy Breslin titled: “Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?” The book chronicles the first season (1962) of the Mets, an expansion team that lost so many games the title was uttered in total frustration by Mets manager Casey Stengel. We are adamant the press should be independent and trade associations should be perfectly free to pursue their statutory goals, we do not believe mixing the two is a good idea. We are not alone in this perception, too.
     Alex Lennane, Publisher of The Loadstar, on the Loadstar Podcast put it rather succintly: “The whole point of TIACA is to identify and promote business practice and this is poor business practice.” After explaining the concept, she completed: “additionally TIACA is endorsing something that is bad for the industry. It points to how little TIACA understands media and how important media is to the industry. Members (TIACA) approached me and voiced their concern as well.” The Loadstar’s podcast interviewer Mike (Sky) King summed up the situation perfectly in very few words:
     “It is incestuous.” he said.
     These are pretty clear expressions that we report as a duty of complete information; the question on possibly incompatible interests exists, as pointed out by our colleagues, and we really do not have an answer right now. We can only hope that TIACA will have the steering power to keep the bar and pursue the interests of its members without uncertainties.
     I recall attending the first TIACA Board meeting at the In and Out Club in London. Garth Davies, then TIACA SecGen insisted we ante up USD$2000.00 for an associate membership before he would allow me into the meetings. So of course we put it up. I noticed Ray Crane, founder of the1983 established TabMag Air Cargo News, UK was there and myself of Air Cargo News established almost 50 years ago in 1975 in America, as we sat there just looking at each other. I found out during the meetings that Garth had waived ACNUK's payment of USD$10,000 but announced ACNUK as a trustee.
     As the only paid-up media at that first meeting I was incensed and got up to leave the meeting, but Brown Wilder, CEO of Air Cargo Inc. followed me out and talked me down off the ledge.

Richard Jackson, Brown Wilder, Bill Spohrer, Ram Menen, Guenter Rohrmann, Robert Arendal, Art Weldy, Daniel Fernandez

     I have always been grateful for Brown thinking TIACA is such a wonderful idea . . . a place in air cargo that welcomes and supports all the modes of transportation. Several times in the 30 plus years since, we have seen TIACA; and have witnessed similar situations and followed TIACA with its ups and downs. We are not so sure now that this situation remains in keep with the original premises. This latest kerfuffle, with a publication at TIACA gaining unexpected influence at the organization, can only be seen through the prism of time, what goes around comes around: time will tell. As we said, we have questions, but we do not wish to jump to conclusions on an affair that only TIACA Members can decide upon.
     Right at the beginning of the formation of this association, we decided to not give up on TIACA, but rather to become a disinterested observer of the organization and have continued in that role ever since. We hope our unbiased attention has been appreciated. In that capacity, I have to say I am fortunate to have known some wonderful, dedicated people like John Emery Jr., Bill Spohrer, Bob Arendal, Julie Kupersmit, Guenter Rohrmann, Ram Menen, Brown Wilder, Dick Jackson, Art Weldy, Daniel Fernandez, Bill Boesch and the list could go on and on, all pioneers and advocates for this industry that we love.
     So what can we say at this point of the play: anyone for tennis? We know just too well that, if the players play well, the game is fair.
Geoffrey Arend/Marco Sorgetti

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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Chuckles for February 13, 2024
What Happens When The Sea Turns Red
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Vol. 23 No. 8
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Chuckles for February 15, 2024
No Mood Indigo For Ingo
Mardi Gras 2024

Vol. 23 No. 9
Why Women Matter To Air Cargo
Chuckles for February 22, 2024
Oman Air Cargo Ready

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
European Editor-Marco Sorgetti • Special Commentaries Editor-Bob Rogers • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend
Film Editor-Ralph Arend

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