The aviation industry needs to reduce the complexity of processes around the transport of dangerous goods (DG) and make better use of digitalisation to improve safety, according to a new survey.

The 2023 Global Dangerous Goods Confidence Outlook is the eighth annual survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), DG software and support company Labelmaster and magazine publisher Hazardous Cargo Bulletin.

Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president of operations, safety and security, said: “Confidence among DG professionals is high, yet challenges remain. These include process complexity, the mis-declaration of DG and the recruitment of skilled personnel.

“To meet the future growth in DG shipments, we need well-trained professionals following globally agreed standards and supported by the right technology and infrastructure.”

Despite the challenges outlined in the survey responses, the vast majority of DG professionals were confident their infrastructure matched up to other businesses, with 85% believing it was on par or ahead of the wider industry, though only 56% thought it met existing needs and 28% said it met both current and future needs.

This worry that the current DG supply chain will not be able to keep up with future requirements can also be seen in the survey’s findings: 72% of professionals said more support was needed to address future DG regulation compliance and 56% said they expected mis-declaration issues to remain at similar levels or worsen.

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Labelmaster vice-president Robert Finn said: “Ongoing supply chain disruptions, along with the continued growth of e-commerce and markets that rely on DG – from consumer products to electric vehicles – has made shipping goods safely and compliantly increasingly difficult. 

“While organisations showed improvement in their DG operations over the last year, the survey underscored the need to reduce process complexity and enhance digitalisation to address future supply chain and regulatory challenges.”

Alongside the concerns around complex processes and the need to improve digitalisation, those surveyed also pointed to the training of staff and the understanding of compliance with regulations as two other key areas needing improvement.

Labelmaster also pointed to the sustainability of the supply chain, such as DG packaging, the use of paper publications and data consistency, as factors that could play into future DG investment.

For example, only 39% of professionals reported that they were working with suppliers who used sustainable practices, despite 73% saying that their organisations had sustainability initiatives currently in place or incoming.

One important material that has seen increased attention in recent years is lithium batteries, with Korean Air recently working on reaching IATA standards for the handling of potentially dangerous technology.