It has been three months since our last newsletter, and while we prefer not to get ahead of ourselves, we are seeing signs that both the health care and aviation situations may be starting to look up thanks to various vaccine rollouts taking place across the world. On the air cargo side of things, there certainly has been positive news with IATA reporting that the January 2021 cargo volumes exceeded those of January 2019. That is without a doubt something to celebrate, though I believe we can all agree there is a long way to go before things return to how they once were. We do know, unfortunately, that a few of our members contracted COVID-19; however, we believe that everyone has recovered fully, and we hope we can all look forward to good health as we move through 2021.
Just to refresh our memories on how a crowded sky might look, this screenshot from Flightradar24 shows flight activity over China, Japan, and parts of Asia at 1,800 on March 2, 2021. Some are no doubt freighters, but many are not, and this shows just how much domestic flight activity there is despite the great restrictions on international flights.
Next Generation IULDUG System
As reported in our last newsletter, we spent Q4 of last year running a POC of a next-generation IULDUG system. This was wrapped up successfully, and we are now involved in planning the next steps to this ambitious project. On the same theme, we have been working with Hong Kong company Virtual Control to develop a paperless ULD Control Receipt via a smartphone app, migrating away from the traditional and outdated paper and pencil approach. Using a digital model for recording ULD transfer between two parties has been a priority for ULD CARE for many years now, so it is particularly exciting to see that we may be getting close to seeing a tangible working solution. For more information on this exciting project, please view the 15-minute interview with Tamas King and Sarah Stonehill from Virtual Control here.
On the topic of technology, you will find another interview, this time with Scott Sangster of Descartes and Wes Tucker of ACL, in which they discuss developments in ULD tagging using BLE technology. It was only about four years ago that this technology began to appear in the ULD environment, and it is already starting to deliver some very exciting benefits for ULD owners and operators. Is the Smart ULD era finally upon us? It seems possible.
It is the great ambition of ULD CARE to connect these various new technologies in a manner that will deliver greater efficiency and accuracy in managing the world’s ULD fleets.
Virtual Reality Training for ULD
In the meantime, we continue to make progress on both our virtual reality project and our Strap App project. See a short PDF presentation on Virtual Reality ULD Training here. With some signs of life beginning to reappear in the aviation industry, there will be a very pressing need to update training knowledge for ground operators in the coming months. ULD CARE believes that by providing basic ULD safety training in an affordable and online format backed by robust trainee knowledge testing using VR , ground handlers can ensure adequate levels of competence at a realistic cost.
On the administrative side of ULD CARE operations, you may recall that about three years ago, upon the retirement of Louise Ladouceur, we entrusted our administration and back office to a UK company providing association management. We have now decided to end this contract, as Danielle Viau – whom many of you will know from her role in organizing our annual conferences – has agreed to take on the role of back office administration, including accounting for ULD CARE. This transition is now in progress and is expected to be completed in a couple of months. On the topic of administration, the annual ULD CARE membership invoices were sent out in February and March. We rely considerably on subscriptions to keep our operation going and to secure sufficient financial resources to support our various initiatives. We wish to thank those of you who have already settled these invoices.
Of course, the annual conference is a cornerstone of ULD CARE operations, so it was very unfortunate that we were not able to hold this event in 2020. Regrettably, we do not believe it will be possible to plan an on-site event in 2021. We have seen some initiatives from IATA and others to try to hold events in Q4, and we certainly wish them good luck, but we prefer to focus on hosting a virtual event in 2021. Such programs are increasingly used, and we are fortunate in that Carl Mavromichalis – whom you may recall has played an active role in our last few conferences – has actually been organizing such events long before COVID and therefore has considerable expertise in this area. We have initiated discussions and expect to announce a virtual conference programme for this autumn in the near future. And of course, as soon as it is possible, we will be arranging a live conference which will be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect.
Last, but certainly not least, we will be holding the ULD CARE director elections in 2021. We will provide more information in the coming weeks but would like to take this opportunity to encourage any of our members who have not yet offered to serve as one of our directors to give this some serious consideration. We do have a number of vacancies, particularly in the airline division, where through retirements, reassignments and redundancies, we unfortunately lost a few of our former directors. The job is not particularly demanding: we have five online meetings a year which we generally keep to a maximum of 60 minutes, and once a year on the day before the annual conference, we have a face-to-face event. We invite you to take a few minutes to watch the video on this subject and give some thought to submitting your name, as all nominations are welcome.