ICAO and FIATA: A new way forward

The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA), is a non-governmental, membership-based organization that represents 40,000 freight forwarding and logistics firms worldwide.

Getting the industry ready and up-to date on safety regulations is fundamental and could not be achieved without regular training of freight forwarders, and more precisely, those handling dangerous goods. Launched in 2011, the ICAO-FIATA Dangerous Goods by Air Training Programme (IFDG) for freight forwarders, is a joint collaboration between ICAO and FIATA. Both organisations recognise the vital role played by freight forwarders in the air cargo supply chain and are jointly committed to its safety. The programme utilises ICAO’s vast technical knowledge and regulatory experience in conjunction with FIATA’s global reach in vocational training.

Developing FIATA and ICAO’s cooperation 

FIATA values the longstanding cooperation with ICAO which started in 2011. Beginning with the IFDG Training Programme, FIATA and ICAO have come a long way in improving cooperation to make learning even more accessible.

In March 2022, ICAO and FIATA signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take a step further in the cooperation, as Corporate Partners in the ICAO Trainair Plus Programme. This agreement aims to develop a new partnership training package, and establishes regular meetings between FIATA and ICAO to ensure that needs are always met. This new procedure strengthens the collaboration between the two entities. Furthermore, the provisions of the MoU enabled Training Centres to officially deliver training for category 6 as per Table 1-4 of the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.

On FIATA’s side, there have been a few changes that reinforce the relationship with its training centres, namely, with a new agreement and more frequent communication. Furthermore, the IFDG certificate is now harmonised into a secure and authenticated certificate distributed directly from FIATA to the training centre. Beyond being a secure PDF and having a unique certificate number, the certificate includes a QR code security feature to authenticate the document, using the tracking technology. Any interested party can verify the authenticity of a certificate. To do so, they can either scan the QR code featured on the document or directly go to the verification page on FIATA’s website, where one can drag and drop the certificate onto the indicated widget to verify its authenticity.

The journey to competency-based training and assessment (CBTA)
The creation of new proposed provisions and guidance materials for a competency-based approach to dangerous goods training was undertaken by the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel in September 2019. The goal of CBTA is to clearly identify the training requirements for a particular job function before ensuring that employees obtain the appropriate level of knowledge and demonstrate the essential abilities to carry out that function.

To develop a skilled workforce, the CBTA proposed provisions aiming to deliver targeted training. It does so by defining crucial competencies that must be learned, figuring out the best way to acquire them, and creating trustworthy evaluation tools to measure performance standards that have already been set. By its vocational nature, the IFDG by Air Training Programme is fully compliant with this approach. There are three steps to carry out the CBTA Approach:

  • Define key competencies and the level of proficiency to be achieved;
  • Determine the most effective way of achieving them; and
  • Establish valid and reliable assessment tools to evaluate the achievement.

FIATA asked Dr. Laura Camastra, Partnerships Management Officer at ICAO, to share her insight on the programme. She worked with the Chief of ICAO’s Cargo Safety Section, Dr. Katherine Rooney to learn more about the range of challenges air cargo encounters in the global air traffic system. Although today’s aircraft move well over $5 trillion worth of goods by air each year, the significant growth projected for this sector, require processes, procedures and international standards that support global effectiveness that is better aligned with modern demands and capabilities.

Q: ICAO and FIATA have been collaborating since 2011 by putting in place a joint programme, namely IFDG, and both organisations have now signed a renewed MoU to enhance further cooperation. In this context, in what way do you value collaboration with FIATA?

A: Training is undertaken by ICAO when it is determined that it is necessary to support Member States in the implementation of ICAO SARPs, ICAO air transport policies, and guidance material, including Annex 18 and the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods By Air (Doc. 9284). The great value of the partnership between ICAO and FIATA lies in the possibility to expand the reach of this standardised training programme to broader target audiences in all Regions, thus contributing to enhancing global civil aviation safety.

Q: What is the envisaged future of this joint collaboration?

A: In addition to currently identified Training Centres, we are exploring the opportunity to have the ICAO TRAINAIR PLUS Programme Members deliver the training Programme in order to expand its reach in all Regions, and train the highest possible number of professionals that directly or indirectly deal with the transportation of dangerous goods. In the future, we may consider the opportunity to expand this partnership to include training covering areas of mutual interest, such as supply chain processes in the transportation of goods by air, and mail security topics.

Q: Why should industry stakeholders take the ICAO-FIATA Dangerous Goods by Air Training Programme?

A: Freight forwarders play an essential role in the safe transport of goods, linking shippers of cargo, especially cargo which contains dangerous goods, to air operators. Those who are trained using the IFDG can then perform their assigned dangerous goods duties competently. Additionally, freight forwarders processing general cargo, when provided with appropriate dangerous goods awareness training, can contribute an additional level of safety by identifying and removing “undeclared” dangerous goods before they are transported by air, thus preventing a potential incident onboard.

Q: How will the shift to competency-based training change the programme compared to the previous method?

A: Traditional training is more focused on meeting and maintaining qualification requirements and standards. Competency-based training courses are designed to ensure that trainees demonstrate the necessary competencies required to carry out assigned duties and responsibilities. However, the goal of the new requirements was not different to what the current training requirements were intended to do, i.e. to ensure all employees were trained to perform the dangerous goods duties they were assigned competently. A competency-based approach is one method of achieving this goal, as it is believed that it would result in more competently trained personnel.

FIATA’s membership is composed of 113 Association Members and over 5,500 Individual Members in 150 countries worldwide. They are the reference source on international policies and regulations governing the freight forwarding and logistics industry, working at an international level to represent service providers who operate in trade logistics and supply chain management. Through their documents and formscongresstraining and publications, they promote trade facilitation and best practices among the freight forwarding community.

This article was originally published in the FIATA Review (December) magazine, where they feature insight into the existing ICAO-FIATA Dangerous Goods by Air Training Programme for freight forwarders, through which ICAO and FIATA  have a long-lasting collaboration.