Nowadays, handlers need to apply operating rules and procedures a hundred different ways to meet hundreds of airlines’ requirements. In order to simplify and streamline cargo handling activities, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has developed and published the IATA Cargo Handling Manual (ICHM), which will help airlines and handlers to work together more effectively while promoting safety and efficiency in air cargo operations
The publication is the result of two years’ development by IATA’s Cargo Handling Consultative Council (ICHC), taking the best of all the cargo handling manuals produced by the individual airline members of the ICHC.
Andre Majeres, manager, cargo and mail operations and standards at IATA, explains: “It’s still important to recognise the individual needs of each airline, but among all these different variations, IATA has found that more than 90% of the cargo handling operations are performed similarly. From this angle, it becomes clearer that the industry should be able to figure out the best way to accomplish a given task, agree on one best practice, and then adopt it across the spectrum.”
The new ICHM was launched at the World Cargo Symposium held in Abu Dhabi in March this year. Based on the IATA industry-approved Master Operating Plan, it translates the door-to-door process – from shipper to consignee – into working instructions, Majeres explains.
The goal of the ICHM is to increase harmonisation across the global cargo handling industry, as well as improving efficiency and safety – and a new version is already under publication.
“We’ve received great initial feedback from the industry for the first edition of ICHM.
“Many airlines and cargo handlers are now considering applying the ICHM to their operations,” says Majeres.
The second edition of ICHM (2018) will include air mail operations linked to the growing e-commerce market trend and irregularity reporting, as well as mandatory and highly recommended competency-based trainings for cargo handlers.
IATA says shippers and freight forwarders will also be asked to provide input for the development of future editions, helping all parties understand each other’s role in the cargo handling process.
Majeres goes on: “You never hear enough about the ICHM but you can see how it relates to IGOM (IATA Ground Operations Manual): one covers landside operations and the other covers airside, and these areas have to communicate.”
The IGOM’s scope is limited to safety-based working instructions whereas ICHM has a much larger scope. Chapter 3 of IGOM (which used to cover cargo and mail handling procedures) will be removed to now contain relevant material from the ICHM applicable to ramp. They are mutually feeding into each other.
Having the same baseline for cargo handling activities also benefits air cargo operators in terms of audits. For ground handlers, operations and facility standards have already been audited by IATA’s Safety Audit of Ground Operations (ISAGO). If a ground handler also performs cargo handling activities, the auditor would only spend one or two more days evaluating cargo contents. Majeres says: “We work very closely with ISAGO to ensure that cargo handlers comply with all cargo-related operations. ISAGO is now making reference to the ICHM and we continuously develop content as the manual evolves.”
Majeres is keen to emphasise that this will not be another new audit, though – “the industry has enough of those already!”
To truly unify the air cargo industry, all parties need to move forward together in the same direction, and implementing this cargo handling manual is one of the first steps towards standardisation. IATA strongly believes that the ICHM will provide the necessary guidelines and working instructions for cargo handlers, simplify the business and open the door to new opportunities.