FFFAI and FIATA call for global recognition of Freight Forwarding as essential service

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Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) in association with International Federation of Freight Forwarders (known as FIATA) on May 29 organised a webinar on ‘Global Perspective on Logistics’ against the backdrop of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar which was moderated by Mr Tej Contractor, Managing Committee Member, FFFAI and President IIFF saw a participation of more than 400 audience from across the globe including India, Europe, USA, Middle East Asia, Australia and Africa.

Mr AV Vijaykumar, Chairman, FFFAI while addressing the webinar commenced his speech by sharing the experience of last two months he said, “Covid-19 crisis connected countries and continents electronically on a single platform through virtual meetings and conferences. Even though such facilities were available earlier, the necessity was not felt exponentially. This very video conferencing is a classic example on how we are together though we are divided by space and time. This trend is bound to continue and probably conquer the future of business models”

He added, “We will, as have been our approach and past experiences, overcome with no damage. But the reality of the possible damage it could inflict on the human life and the human race changed the complexion of handling the pandemic on a global scale,”

Further, while commending the government for their timely efforts to maintain logistics and supply chain at this crisis time he said, “There was total lockdown and life came to a standstill. But we compliment the Government that within a day they listened to our voices and agreed to open the doors for supply chain. On the third day of lockdown, international transport of cargo – export or import – was treated as essential and member of FFFAI were in the forefront of supporting movement of cargo for the nation.”

Mr Vijaykumar also talked about the pro-active adaption of digital solutions by Indian Customs and said, “In fact, by the time the first phase of lockdown could end on the 14 th April 2020, we had a fully electronically driven Customs platform. This enabled seamless, paperless, contactless transaction of cargo clearance. Other than physical handling of cargo rest was fully automated and implemented thereby literally maintaining real social distancing. We need to recognize and we do recognize the efforts of Indian Customs to have stretched our limits beyond normal and to have literally worked 24 x 7,”

Also, he applauded the Ministry of Shipping for its effective efforts to lessen the burden on exim trade and keep supply moving.

He mentioned that the Ministry of civil aviation had advised the air cargo custodians to waive storage charges and the nodal role played by Commerce Ministry in connecting the stakeholder requirements and expectation with the related government authorities to balance the situation.

He concluded by showing his trust in the sector and thanking the frontline warriors. “Globally there is no exception to economic impact, but we are known for our resilience and hence will overcome this attack also,”

“It is not that we are new to such environment but it just that we are to again rediscover ourselves. Tough times manifest the strength in us. We recognize the frontline warriors of the coronavirus crisis – the doctors, nurses, police force, hygiene workers. But the unsung frontline warrior to have moved the nation, to have supported the availability of essentials and to have maintained the supply is our fraternity – a proud group that always delivers irrespective of the adversities,” he said.

Mr Basil Pieterson, President, FIATA while clarifying FIATA’s position applauds the inclusion of freight forwarding within many nation’s definitions of essential services.

“However, more needs to be done. Greater consistency in global responses, together with the implementation of facilitative measures, are required to ensure the continuance of well-functioning supply chains to move essential goods to where they are most needed throughout this crisis and beyond,” he stressed.

He pointed out that to constrain the spread of COVID-19 the governments worldwide have been compelled to close many aspects of societal daily life and put restrictions on movement of people which will affect the national supply and stocks of essentials. Already, global reports indicate shortages of necessary equipment.

“It is therefore crucial that governments continue to recognise the freight forwarding industry as an ‘essential service’ and FIATA encourages them to continue to do so with greater consistency and coordination. It is internationally acknowledged that governments must first recognise the nature of the freight forwarding activity as an ‘essential service’, and then put in place policies that facilitate the effective rendering of these services,” the FIATA President highlighted FIATA’s stand.

Furthermore, he Commended FFFAI’s strength and its successful collaboration with the government and calls on its worldwide members and national governments to collaborate, for efficient delivery of world’s cargo, including essential goods, to those who need it most.

In his speech, he also touched upon points such as the Global Perspective on the impact of COVID-19 on the Logistics Industry, empowering the freight forwarding community in these difficult times, compliance, required support from government and industry stakeholders, increasing digitisation, skilling, WTO trade facilitation, rebounding national economy and survival of freight forwarders & logistics industry.

The webinar was also addressed by other key note speakers which included FFFAI leaders Mr Shankar Shinde, Chairman-Elect; Mr S. Ramakrishna, Immediate Past Chairman; Mr Samir Shah, Past Chairman; Mr Debashis Dutta, Past Chairman; Mr Alan Jose, Vice Chairman and Mr Dushyant Mulani, Honorary Secretary.

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