María Elena Sierra Díaz, General Director, AS Consultoria, Mexico

The present analysis allows determining the ideal document for multimodal transport, where part of the trip is transported by air. Due to the nature of the bill of lading and its conditions, it is stated that the bill of lading is not a multimodal document. Therefore, if the Freight Forwarder intends to render services which include a combination of air and land transportation, there is no transport document that endorses it.

Currently, it is understood that the services are rendered separately for liability purposes; and so, two transport documents shall be considered. If the services are combined with land transportation, the waybill, plus the air waybill shall be used. If the services are combined with sea transportation, the bill of lading shall be used. The first combination is the most common.

For this reason, it is essential to make a recommendation to the Freight Forwarders about the document that may protect them, in terms of multimodal transport, by a combination that includes air transportation.

IATA, as an International Air Transport Association, has not expressed or recommended anything regarding this issue yet, as it focuses only on air transportation, based on the Montreal Convention and according to their own interests, even though a portion of the transportation might be through different means. However, the transportation shall continue to be considered as aerial.

The current program of IATA Cargo agency only allows the use of the air waybills named MABW and NAWB which are exclusively based on the IATA Cargo Service Conference Resolutions 600. In such resolution, a contract is executed based on the conditions addressed in the Montreal and Warsaw Agreements.

Nowadays, IATA does not consider nor accept any other document different from the airwaybill AWB recommended by the Association; nevertheless, the IATA code is entered elsewhere, and the use of a transport document slightly adapted to the needs of the air multimodal, is accepted.

For this reason and with the analysis of the documents issued by the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA), a better recommendation for the handling of the multimodal transport of merchandise has been addressed, specifically for the cases where air transportation is used.  It is considered that the ideal document for the multimodal transport of merchandise, which includes air transport, is the NON-NEGOTIABLE FIATA MULTIMODAL TRANSPORT WAYBILL, also known as FWB.

We should remember that air shipments are non-negotiable by nature, in fact, it is not practical to think that flight times and the conditions of the transportation are negotiable, this situation is not accepted by the airlines.

The FWB is a document that contains clauses which are like the FBL (FIATA BILL OF LADING); however, its main characteristic is that it is non-negotiable.

Now, for the effects of its normal operation, we shall point out that this document may substitute, at some point, the way of operating the house air waybill; therefore, concerning air transportation, the transport documents shall continue existing, but, due to a protection issue in the multimodality (regarding non-aerial parts), the FWB shall be considered as an additional transport document.

The IATA Member of the CASS Associate shall not stop issuing the house bill and the master bill as it is done today, and the member/associate or the purchaser (another FF that is not an IATA Member or CASS Associate) shall issue the FWB, as a protection multimodal document.

It is necessary to consider that as it is a multimodal transport document written by FIATA, the fulfillment of the conditions of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shall be taken into account regarding the liability and the application of the clauses contained specifically in the terms and conditions of item 9, since the FWB is subject to the norms of UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce. Let’s not forget that in the case of multimodal transport and the UNCTAD, there are charges for delivery delays, which is the transportation price.

Liability limits

  • 666.67 SDR. If there is a sea leg.
  • 8.33 SDR.  If there is no sea leg.

Finally, the changes in the international trade and the promotion of green technologies, encourage and promote “no paper” policies; therefore, IATA and FIATA currently encourage the use of digital transport documents, such as the E-AWB. In the face of these new scenarios and based on the abovementioned approach for the use of an air multimodal transport document, there can be processes that are completely digital and with no use of paper.