Air Act amendments would let electronic bills of lading take wing

OTTAWA (Jan. 5) — Canada has taken steps to encourage air freight carriers to replace paper waybills with electronic records.

Transport Minister David Collenette introduced an amendment to the Carriage by Air Act last month that will allow Canada to ratify Montreal Protocol No. 4, an international agreement that streamlines documentation procedures for air cargo by encouraging the use of automated information systems.

The Montreal Protocol No. 4 is a standard freight agents and an airline use for electronic data exchange, without the issuance of a paper air waybill, using electronic storage systems to preserve a record of carriage.

Several air cargo groups praised the move, saying that the elimination of paper documents from the shipment cycle should lead to better customer service and savings for airlines.

At the same time, Collenette introduced an amendment to adopt the Guatemala Protocol, a standard covering passengers and accompanying baggage, not cargo.

Both agreements are amendments to the Warsaw Convention, which is a widely recognized set of international rules governing the liability of a carrier in the event of the death or injury of a passenger, loss of baggage or cargo, and delay.

Open for signature since 1975, the protocol came into force only on 14 June last year, when the necessary 30 states had signed it. Among the signatory nations are Australia, the United States, and Great Britain.

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