Net portal for air freight to launch

Unisys and three major airlines are working together to launch the Unisys Cargo Portal Services, an Internet portal that will make it easier for freight forwarders to do business with the air carriers.

The airlines working with Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys are United Air Lines Inc.'s Cargo Division in Chicago, Northwest Airlines Cargo in Minneapolis, and Air Canada Cargo in Montreal.

The portal, scheduled to be launched by the end of this year, will offer freight forwarders an easier and more accurate way to book and track and trace their shipments and to communicate with the air cargo carriers. Freight forwarders are third-party companies that do the paperwork and arrange the transportation of merchandise for other companies. The portal offers value to the forwarders by bringing the schedules and transportation assets of multiple carriers to one Web site, said Roger Gibson, vice president at United Cargo in a statement.

The service will be free to freight forwarders. The airlines will pay a quarterly subscription fee to Unisys for a set number of transactions. The companies declined to provide details on the fee.

The cargo portal system will be based on Unisys' browser-based shipment booking services and the Cargo 2000 In-transit Service Manager, which is used by many international carriers to measure, manage and control cargo movement, said Christopher Shawdon, vice president, Logistics Solutions, for Unisys Global Transportation.

The new portal is more efficient and will allow a freight forwarder to save time and money by making bookings electronically over the Internet, he said. Unisys' Cargo Portal Services integrates with carriers' core systems ensuring that the data is secure and accurate, Shawdon said.

Currently, business between carriers and forwarders is done through multiple telephone calls, allowing the parties to review transportation options and then book services based on price, service and availability, Shawdon said.

The three airlines approached Unisys about 18 months ago to discuss the possibility of creating the new portal, said Mark Haeussler, director of strategic planning and business development for United Cargo.

"We looked at various providers, but went with Unisys because they already have a lot of existing technology in place committed to our business," said Haeussler, who added the airlines hoped other carriers would sign on to the portal service.

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