At Amsterdam Airport Schiphol export cargo that has been digitally pre-notified via eLink receives priority handling. This system will become standard practice from September 2021 and it will be included in the ready for carriage procedure. This digitalisation contributes towards cost efficiency, speed, security and reliability in the process of delivering cargo at the airport. Forwarders, hauliers and the handling agents at Schiphol who have already moved to the new system are still busy adjusting their systems and internal processes. They advise stragglers to jump aboard as quickly as possible.

The central database of the eLink system forms the basis for digital pre-notification. Parties input information on delivery, type of cargo, legal agreements and the destination for their cargo as well as ensuring they have green lights with regard to Customs directives and the rules for the transport of dangerous goods, pharmaceuticals and phytosanitary goods. The parties check the part of the export consignment process for which they have responsibility: the FWB has to be complete, the consignment must be declared AvSec and be Customs cleared. Chantal Klok from forwarder DB Schenker: “Everything must be 100% correct and entered in the correct fields. Only once everything is on green, the consignment may leave for the airport and fly.”

Errors show up sooner in the new system, this increases reliability. Drivers no longer need to take papers to the handling agent’s counter with the added benefit that fewer in-person contacts are necessary. Safety first in these times of COVID-19! And, because they can drive directly to the dock, they are much faster. Arnold Verduijn of D.J. Middelkoop & Zn and Joey Lawalata of R. Nagel Transport have already seen this: “A driver who arrived to deliver a consignment at the airport at midnight was sometimes still there at 7 a.m. but now they have returned within the hour.” Jeroen Baarda of handling agent WFS also anticipates there will be time savings as soon as the system is implemented across the board: “With pre-notification we see what is coming to us and with that information we can begin scheduling and validating sooner.”

The forwarders, hauliers and handling agents already working with eLink, are currently in a transitional period. They have to adjust their technical systems and get employees and customers on board with this new way of working. In a best effort group, they regularly discuss any teething problems in the system which Cargonaut then takes up. These parties all expect to be ready by 1 September. “Anyone who has not yet started with eLink risks falling behind”, Joey Lawalata warns, “Before you know what needs to happen, a month may have passed. Designating the correct people can easily take a couple of weeks as can implementing the system.” Chantal Klok adds: “You cannot wait to find out what the challenges are for your processes. If you have not already done so, it is now a matter of urgency to very quickly get connected.”

The expectation is that there are good times ahead with digital pre-notification via eLink at Schiphol. Jeroen Baarda: “We hope that, in the near future, the hauliers will be able to deliver cargo to our docks without any papers. We digitally sign off receipt of cargo and the forwarder can follow in real time in the system how his consignment gets its ready for carriage status and how we then take it over.” Arnold Verduijn: “Data allows you to better manage and analyse, this being particularly the case for the hauliers and handling agents.  You can look at export times and slots and plan your trucks and drivers accordingly. But, most especially, you see how processes can be done differently and more efficiently. Completely paperless (eAWB) is therefore the dot on the horizon.”

Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), the industry association for the air cargo chain, is an important driver behind this development. Maarten van As, Managing Director ACN states very clearly: “The Digital Pre-Notification project is the first essential step towards far-reaching digitalisation of the air cargo chain in the Netherlands. This digitalisation is necessary to retain and improve our competitive position. It is also about the competitive position of the air cargo chain relative to other chains and the position of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. But also that individual parties’ effectiveness in the chain will improve.”