European Commission calls on Member States to implement a series of measures ‘as a matter of urgency’, including granting without delay all necessary authorisations and permits and temporarily removing, or applying flexibly, night curfews or slot restrictions at airports for essential air cargo operations.
CLECAT, the European association for forwarding, transport, logistics and customs services, has commended the European Commission for the speedy release of a guidance document recommending operational and organisational steps to support air cargo operations, which aims at ensuring that essential transport flows keep moving during the current COVID-19 crisis.
In a guideline document published late last week, Facilitating Air Cargo Operations During COVID-19 Outbreak, the European Commission calls on all Member States to implement a series of measures “as a matter of urgency”, including granting without delay all necessary authorisations and permits and temporarily removing, or applying flexibly, night curfews or slot restrictions at airports for essential air cargo operations. The EC said it would consider all practical steps to encourage third countries to apply these principles, including through engagement with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), with international aviation partners, and with the international air transport industry.
It said in view of “the importance of air cargo and emergency air cargo in particular in the fight against COVID-19, and as part of the EU’s overall efforts to keep essential transport flows moving and to preserve the EU-wide operation of supply chains, the European Commission invites Member States to implement a series of operational measures to facilitate air cargo transport and help reduce additional costs, with the understanding that these exceptional measures will be temporary for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis”.
It said these measures should include:
For transport from outside the EU, granting without delay all necessary authorisations and permits, including, where legally possible, temporary traffic rights for additional air cargo operations, even when conducted with passenger aircraft;
Temporarily removing, or applying flexibly, night curfews or slot restrictions at airports for essential air cargo operations;
Facilitating the use of passenger aircraft for cargo-only operations, including for the re-positioning of air cargo flight crew, medical staff and anyone involved in the transport of goods regardless of the transport mode;
Ensuring that air cargo crew as well as handling and maintenance personnel are qualified as critical staff in cases of lockdown or curfew;
Ensuring that, where possible, sufficient cargo capacity is maintained when regional airports are closed for economic reasons or considering keeping airports open for air cargo only, and in any case ensuring that open airports maintain sufficient air cargo handling capabilities to ensure timely treatment and delivery;
Exempting from travel restrictions asymptomatic transport personnel, including aircrew, engaged in the transport of goods;
Exempting from containment measures asymptomatic aircrew, cargo personnel and airport personnel working on the ramp, if adequate health protocols are in place;
Allowing fast-track ad-hoc exemptions to address unforeseen situations such as sudden and unforeseen emergency operations;
Allowing ramp personnel to do their work both safely as well as efficiently, by providing staff with guidance on health precautions in an air cargo environment and support them with appropriate supplies of hygiene products;
Encouraging that cargo and express airlines exceptionally reserve capacity for the supply of essential goods, in particular medical and emergency supplies, and apply reasonable shipping rates for such supplies.
CLECAT said: “As recognised by the European Commission in its guidance document, the outbreak of COVID-19 is threatening the functioning of air cargo transport, which in turn affects the entire EU and global economy due to disruptions to the supply chain. CLECAT stresses that continued and uninterrupted air cargo services are of essential strategic importance for the European Union and its economy, as well as the public health, especially due to the nature of goods transported by air cargo, which includes time-sensitive products, such as medical supplies.
Nicolette van der Jagt, director general of CLECAT, said: “The guidance document issued by the European Commission contains highly valuable recommendations, which, if implemented speedily by Member States, will support air cargo operations and ensure the functioning of vital global supply chains. Therefore, CLECAT calls on the EU Member States to implement the measures set out by the European Commission as a matter of urgency, to ensure the flow of essential goods by air transport.”