As forwarders and airlines reached a landmark agreement on changes to the IATA-owned Cargo Accounts Settlement System (CASS) in Europe, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) was able to make a significant contribution to the negotiations that drove through the changes.
BIFA is a member of the FIATA Airfreight Institute, an integral constituent of the European Air Cargo Programme (EACP). The EACP adopted all of the existing IATA Cargo Agency Resolutions appropriate for Europe when it was established, including the CASS airline billing and forwarder freight settlement programme.
Until the recent global financial crisis, the requirement for forwarders, when appropriate, to undergo a financial assessment by IATA had largely been dormant. However, the crisis sparked an about-turn by IATA to such assessments resulting in compliant European forwarders, including a number of BIFA Members, having to undergo a financial assessment, and as a consequence, provide CASS with a bank guarantee. One Member was faced with having to provide a 400,000 guarantee.
According to Peter Quantrill, BIFA Director General, this blanket move was one that had to be challenged, both for the sake of BIFA Members and the wider freight forwarding community.
BIFA's Director - Trade Services, John O'Connell, who led the trade association's efforts on this initiative, adds: "It was intolerable that forwarders were faced with the reinstatement of this requirement irrespective of the fact that the members in question had been hitherto wholly compliant to the prescriptive payment terms and conditions of the CASS before, during, and after the financial crisis is being put behind us."
At a meeting of the EACP Joint Council in February, a small working group was set up, consisting of forwarder representatives from BIFA, FIATA and IATA to consider changes to the financial criteria.
O'Connell states: "As part of this working party, we consistently articulated the fact that the forwarder is the customer of the airline. Our aim was to ensure that the need for forwarders, which complied with the terms of the CASS agreement, to provide expensive and cumbersome bank guarantees, was lifted.
"As a trade body, our paramount role is to work to further the interests of our Members. We value out membership of bodies such as the FIATA Airfreight Institute where we can speak for British forwarders which underpin our country's international trading."
The change that BIFA helped to bring about comes into effect on July 1 when the revised criteria for registration and retention for the European Air Cargo Programme, which includes the CASS settlement criteria for forwarders is implemented.
Quantrill concludes: "Yet again, our members' voice has been heard on the international freight industry stage thanks to BIFA's proactive role in tackling issues and setting the international agenda for freight."