Bridging the Gap from Cargo-IMP to Cargo-XML

Airlines and air freight forwarders still using Cargo Interchange Message Procedures (Cargo-IMP) are encouraged to make the move to Cargo Extensible Markup Language (Cargo-XML), the newer electronic messaging standard from International Air Transport Association (IATA). The association started to sunset Cargo-IMP at the end of last year. That means that that the older standard will no longer be updated or supported. Although IATA has not stated when it will decommission Cargo-IMP, market leaders are taking steps now to bridge the gap to the newer standard.

There are several good reasons to transition to the newer and more modern Cargo-XML. The biggest is that Cargo-XML supports easier transmission of more electronic documents, thereby streamlining air cargo processes and reducing their costs.

XML, which has been extensively used in e-commerce for over a decade, uses metatags to show a receiving computer what to do with incoming data. XML is simpler and more flexible than older technologies. The technology is also more compatible with devices and mobile applications and allows for easier partner on-boarding.

As part of the overall e-Freight initiative, electronic air waybills (eAWBs) could be the biggest beneficiary of the switch to Cargo-XML. Producing XML-based eAWBs is much easier than with Cargo-IMP, especially when it comes to correcting information. Cargo-IMP requires a specialist to get into a message and make changes. With Cargo-XML, anyone can work on the messaging. In addition to eAWBs, there are several other required documents--including Shipper’s Letters of Instruction (SLIs), commercial invoices, and packing lists--that are not supported with Cargo-IMP but which are supported by Cargo-XML.

Increasing the proportion of air waybills sent electronically is a major priority of IATA's e-Freight initiative. At this point, only around 22 percent of AWBs are electronic.

Cargo-IMP messages also limit the size of data fields. Some data elements, such as shippers' names and addresses, can easily exceed those limits, meaning that some data isn't be fully or accurately captured in Cargo-IMP. With its expanded data fields, Cargo-XML will enhance the quality of shipment information and the ease of its transmission.

Cargo-XML will likely be a major facilitator of the adoption e-Freight by industry stakeholders through the seamless exchange of electronic documents. Cargo-XML's enhanced datasets, speed of implementation, and its ability to reuse messages and data will reduce the time required to document shipments.

That, in turn, will also reduce end-to-end cargo handling time. The ability to send data early, with no holdup due to translation between systems, increases the chances of cargo acceptance. The ease of reuse of data from other messages or from enterprise systems and databases will increase the automation and reduce the costs of these processes. Some industry experts believe that the increased digitization and automation of air cargo processes facilitated by Cargo-XML will reduce the overall shipment process time by 48-hours, a major competitive advantage to those who are smart enough to exploit it.

Market leaders are also making the transition from Cargo-IMP to Cargo-XML by leveraging technology. Descartes has developed a technology bridge that helps air cargo messaging participants easily change from legacy Cargo-IMP messaging to the new Cargo-XML standards. This data bridge provides a clear pathway for companies to realize the benefits of the new standard.

With easier electronic interchanges, greater process automation, better data quality, streamlined processes, lower costs and solutions that help bridge the messaging gap, the time has come to jump on the Cargo-XML bandwagon and to bid farewell to Cargo-IMP.