Airline Cargo

Air mail is dead, long live air mail


Not so long ago, air mail was considered the royalty of correspondence. But with the advent of email, instant messaging, and other digital technologies, many predicted air mail´s unretractable demise. Yet, IATA still reports that around 320.4 billion letters and post items continue to be sent every year and air mail cargo plays an essential role in their delivery. Air mail cargo is an important contributor to air cargo and with eCommerce continuing to boom, those numbers show no signs of relenting. And like all things analogue and digital, security is a critical area of attention, in this case what and how items are transported from origin to destination.

CSD and e-CSD

In air mail cargo logistics, the Consignment Security Declaration (CSD) is a printed form in a standard format which provides security information relating to consignments of air mail as they move along the supply chain. It enables entities handling the mail to ensure that the proper level of security is maintained or applied and provides an auditable trail for regulators. As far back as 2010, IATA worked closely with stakeholders, including the Universal Postal Union, to define standard operating procedures for e-CSD, an electronic version of the CSD, and establish a digital and international standard for air mail cargo shipments that harmonize compliance practices across countries.

How does it work?

Air mail cargo logistics and security protocols are regulated differently across countries. In the EU, for example, the Mail e-CSD regulation requires mail to be secured completely, by all means, before being loaded onto an aircraft. An e-CSD must be issued to certify that all mandatory protocols have been followed by all stakeholders across the supply chain.

Essentially, an e-CSD reflects a country´s mail consignment security program, enables the exchange of air mail cargo security data electronically, and maintains an audit trail. An e-CSD is comprised of four components:

  1. Who secured the mail?
    Not just anyone is authorized to secure mail in the postal supply chain. Security governance can only be guaranteed by an authorized party in a country´s regulated security program. These parties can be an air carrier agent, a handling agent, a freight forwarder, or a postal operator and must comply with stringent requirements to be eligible to secure air mail cargo consignments.
  2. How is the mail secured?
    Securing air mail cargo is done at the item and mail bag levels by applying different protocols but the e-CSD is shared at the overall consignment level.
  3. Which security status is applied to the mail consignment?
    Different goods have different security ratings depending on associated risks. The e-CSD must reflect that rating and any limitations to the types of aircrafts that are authorized to transport specific items.
  4. The date and time the mail was secured

Complexity management

With so many variables and stakeholders involved in securing air mail cargo across the global supply chain, in addition to varying levels of e-CSD adoption versus offline CSD, managing security data and processes is complex. Accelerating the widescale deployment of e-CSD will close an existing gap in the industry's endeavor to transform current paper-steered processes into a paperless and digitally enabled supply chain.

e-CSD serves as a technical enabler for the transmission and acceptance of security statuses issued by regulated agents, accelerating the air mail cargo shipment lifecycle, and avoiding redundant screening at transfer and transit gateways. And this is where digital technologies are making headway and accelerating the transformation of air mail cargo businesses to keep up with eCommerce´s growth.

iCargo Mail is a fully integrated and mobile-enabled solution for air mail cargo handling and revenue accounting that provides real-time data and visibility across the supply chain. Fully compliant with e-CSD and UPU standards and able to integrate with postal regulators at the country level, it simplifies and streamlines air mail processing – accelerating throughflow with protocol-compliant security checks at all handover stages and minimizing errors and duplication.

The next time someone tells you air mail is dead, remind them that parcels sent by their favorite eCommerce websites don´t just fall from the sky.

Naveen K U is Lead Product Specialist for the iCargo Mail solution at IBS Software. He has over 8 years of professional experience across various Product Ownership roles and works closely with airlines in transforming and redefining their cargo businesses and processes in line with industry initiatives and best practices. Naveen holds a Masters in Operations Management and a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering.

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