Last week, aerospace industry-owned tech organization SITA announced a collaboration for tracking airline cargo containers using blockchain. SITA will partner with non-profit ULD Care for the trial, which will digitally track and record custody details of containers.
Unit Load Devices (ULDs) are containers used to load luggage, freight, and mail on an aircraft as a single unit. Canada-based ULD Care was started as an IATA committee in 1971 and became a legal entity in 2001. It provides resources, training and collaboration in ULD operations through its open membership model.
IATA estimates that there are about 900,000 ULDs in service, which potentially create unnecessary annual expenses of $400 million as a result of inefficiency, lost cargo, and damage to the ULD or aircraft. Using blockchain, SITA and ULD Care aim to plug this loss and reduce the risk of tampering, fraud, illicit trade, cybercrime and money laundering. While improving transparency in the ULD process, blockchain will also eliminate paper-based transactions and speed up freight transport.
“Air cargo represents only 1% of all global trade in terms of volume but accounts for 35% of the total trade value and the inefficiency is significant,” said Bob Rogers, Vice President and Treasurer, ULD Care.
The proposed proof-of-concept will connect all data points across the air cargo journey and provide a common platform for all ULD data. The job of loading ULDs onto the aircraft is generally outsourced to ground handlers or cargo agents. One of ULD Care’s missions is to ensure that staff receive more than “on-the-job” training. But there is currently ample scope for error in the loading process.
The blockchain platform will integrate with the current ULD interlining platform to enable access using open APIs. This will allow airlines to track the movement of ULDs and locate the point where damage or loss might have occurred to recover the costs.
SITA, the technology company owned by the airline industry, said any given shipment has up to 12 custodian companies monitoring and tracking the cargo. These firms rely on paper-based processes, and the blockchain platform can enable them to join the network for sharing data and avoiding disputes.
The project with ULD Care is part of its Global Blockchain Alliance. Earlier this year, the technology company launched the MRO Blockchain Alliance to track, trace, and record aircraft parts. The organization also operates an Aviation Blockchain Sandbox, which was launched two years ago.