After an ash cloud produced by volcanic eruption in Iceland forced European air traffic control authorities (EUROCONTROL) to ground around 95.000 flights, the WCO (World Customs Organization) exhorted customs authorities around the world to accelerate clearances of air freight, stating that speeding up the full recovery of air cargo supply chains is essential to repair the losses to global trade.
In a press release the WCO said that the airline industry has suffered “its worst disruption since 9/11”, losing around US$ 400 million per day between 17 and 19 April according to IATA´s (International Air Transport Association) calculations. The potential impact of these losses on European carriers is devastating. Though no official estimates have been published so far, were global trade figures to be taken into account, the aggregate loss of revenues caused by the ash cloud would reach several billions. Exporters of perishable goods have suffered particularly high losses.
Even with the gradual opening of airports on 20 April, solving the accumulation of delayed flights and fully recovering air traffic flows will take days, and will cause further related problems as a 50% increase is expected in the normal number of flights.
WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya declared that the organization´s call to customs authorities to expedite customs clearances of air freights aims at smoothing the recovery of global trade flows. Moreover, in Mr. Mikuriya´s words, “the WCO has developed a range of instruments and tools that assist Customs in their daily operations. Two in particular can help Customs to speed up its response to recovery efforts – the WCO revised Kyoto Convention on the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures and the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines”.