We’re all too aware of the many disastrous implications of global climate change – from the impact on coastal communities of rising sea levels through to the dangers of increasingly unpredictable seasons on agricultural cycles. But what about our own industry? A recent report in Climatic Change suggests that the implications could be serious for air transportation, and are well worth considering as the effects of climate change become more evident.
The report points to the way in which steadily rising temperatures will have an effect on the density of the air in the atmosphere. This has a direct impact on the amount of lift that our planes can generate – with serious consequences in terms of the amount of cargo that the aircraft would be able to carry. In extreme situations it could lead to aircraft being grounded during the hottest periods – with the experts suggesting that up to a third of flights might be prevented from taking off. If true, the impact of increasing air temperatures would be particularly serious for air cargo operators – especially those who use larger aircraft such as the 777-300. The answer for the air cargo industry could lie in weight restrictions below their maximum take off weight – but the costs could be substantial.
A worrying pattern of evidence
“As air temperatures rise at constant pressure, air density declines, resulting in less lift generation by an aircraft wing at a given airspeed and potentially imposing a weight restriction on departing aircraft,” says the report by Coffel, Thompson and Horton. “Our results suggest that weight restriction may impose a non-trivial cost on airlines and impact aviation operations around the world.”
Ignazio Coraci comments: “This is troubling news for the industry, because it builds on previous research from 2015 – a compelling pattern is emerging that suggests that climate change could have very serious implications for our industry – not just in terms of cost but also in the quality of the service that we can offer our customers. As an industry we must do everything we can to make sure that the impact of climate change on our industry and the customers we serve is kept to a minimum.”
Could a new app be a taste of the way our industry uses technology in the future?
Brussels airport has already had a great deal of success with its BRUcloud open community platform in recent years – and it seems that freight forwarders at the airport are now embracing the cutting edge data-sharing technology to develop new solutions to old problems.
The Customs Export Application was strongly supported by Air Cargo Belgium (ACB) – who represent the country’s air cargo community – and with the advantages it delivers it’s clear to see why the technology has been given the industry body’s backing. The app matches collected manifest data (both from the freight forwarders themselves and existing data that is available within the BRUcloud system) and then automatically reports complete and accurate information to customs. The new technology saves time on all sides – particularly in terms of the amount of time processing air waybills. Customs have also agreed to clear shipments handled via the app first, providing yet another opportunity to speed up processes for all stakeholders.
A shared approach
A real key to the success of the app has been the collaborative approach taken by all parties – both in terms of the development of the Customs Export Application and its subsequent roll out.
“This collaboratively created app results in a lower administrative burden for all the parties,” says Bart Vleugels, who is advisory general at the Federal Public Service of Finance, Customs and Excise Duties. “Digitization within BRUcargo will further lower the chances of errors and will help to drastically decrease lead times.”
Freight forwarders have certainly bought in to the new technology, with 90 per cent of the air freight passing through BRUcargo now using the app.
Industry best practice
Ignazio Coraci comments: “The industry can learn a huge amount from the great work done at BRUcargo, not just in terms of the technology itself and its application, but also in the collaborative approach taken to its development by everyone involved. This kind of open cooperation between stakeholders is a model for similar projects.”
The pace at which we all respond to the demands of our customers is critical – and recent investments made by some of the world’s leading air cargo operators suggest that the industry is finally getting the message about e-commerce.
The sector is booming within the air cargo industry and KLM Cargo have now invested in a combination-carrier-operated sorting system at its Amsterdam Schiphol airport site that is able to handle package-level air freight. It’s been designed specifically to handle post, express and pharmaceutical cargo.
That means that KLM Cargo should now have the systems in place to fully take advantage of the growth in e-commerce traffic. Marcel de Nooijer, executive vice president of KLM Cargo explains: “E-commerce is a fast-growing branch in the cargo industry. This innovative system allows us to keep pace with the rapid increase in post and express consignments. The system is faster and smarter, allowing us to offer better service to our customers.”
KLM Cargo have described the new facility as a world first, and it’s clear that it should now allow the business to make more use of its air freight capacity. KLM Cargo have teamed up with Netherlands-based Parcel International to run 12Send, a new same-day delivery service for Europe. They’ve already piloted the service on routes between Amsterdam and Barcelona, and have held successful trials in London, Madrid and Stockholm.
A lesson for the sector
Ignazio Coraci comments: “This is a sign of things to come. No industry can afford to ignore their customers. The investment made at Amsterdam Schiphol is an indication that businesses are slowly beginning to listen to changing customer needs, and I feel that we are starting to move in the right direction. This kind of investment is essential if carriers want to survive as new markets develop.”
It has been a truly impressive start to the year for Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), with growth in traffic right across the board. In terms of air cargo business, HKIA has handled an impressive 2.3 million tonnes of cargo already this year in the first six months to June – that’s up a remarkable 11.3% on the same period last year.
So what has been behind HKIA’s great start to the year – and more importantly, do the experts think it will be sustained? Well, in the latest figures from June, 410,000 tonnes of cargo passed through the airport, up 11.4% on 2016 – and there are indications that a 17% year-on-year increase in June exports from the airport led to the high growth in cargo tonnage for that period. That bump in export figures has certainly contributed then to the airport’s positive performance in the first half of 2017, but HKIA has also benefited from an improved global outlook. And with the Asian markets leading the way in air cargo growth, HKIA is in prime position to take advantage of a global economic performance that is looking positive in terms of consumer and business confidence.
Investing for the future
HKIA isn’t standing still, with work starting last August on a third runway to help accommodate future growth. The airport is also making further investments to ensure it meets the needs of customers.
“On the cargo front, HKIA continues to develop its ability to serve fast-growing segments of the high-value cargo business, such as fresh produce and temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals that require specialised handling,” says an airport spokesperson. “The airport authority and local industry stakeholders are working closely together to pursue the IATA Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) accreditation on airport community basis and HKIA is expected to be recognised as an IATA CEIV Pharma Partner Airport by the third quarter in 2017.”
A sustainable future
Ignazio Coraci comments: “Clearly Hong Kong is an important site for both our ASC Cargo and SW Italia businesses, and so the news that air freight handling is continuing to grow there is great to hear. I’m also really encouraged by the investment in infrastructure that is being made at HKIA – it will go a long way towards making sure that the performance we’ve seen so far this year is sustained.”
Cyber attacks by hackers are becoming a huge problem in our increasingly connected and technology-driven world.
A growing threat
Recent examples include the global ransomware attack back in May that disrupted many critical systems – not least in the UK’s National Health Service, which was badly affected for a number of weeks, severely impacting patient care. Closer to home in – terms of the air freight industry at least – was the attack on marine container shippers AP Moller Maersk, that saw a large number of their critical IT systems hit by the so-called ‘Petya’ operation.
One of the key phrases that is usually heard in the aftermath of such attacks is the need for a more robust procedure around ‘business continuity.’ But what does this really mean, and what steps has the industry already taken to lessen the impact of similar attacks – or even global IT system failures such as the one that recently hit British Airways – in the future?
A new system that has been implemented in the UK might give some clues as to the future shape of our industry’s response to this issue. The ‘CCS-UK Fallback’ system is intended to allow the UK air cargo industry to continue running in the event of any prolonged problems with the HMRC’s vital CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system. The new system means that traders will be able to continue processing Customs export declarations even with CHIEF down, and it has been designed to run for 30 days. The system’s development is a great example of collaboration between the private sector and government to safeguard an industry that’s worth billions.
“We have recently seen the horrendous impact of major IT system failures in aviation, and this cannot be allowed to happen to the UK air cargo industry which provides essential support to UK trade and industry, helps maintain our competitiveness on the world stage and supplies urgent commodities that are sometimes a matter of life and death,” says Steve Parker, DHL’s Head of Customs for Europe and Chairman of the CCS-UK User Group.
Safeguarding our customers
Ignazio Coraci comments: “The CCS-UK Fallback system is a real step forward, and I think it could be used as a model right across the sector. The service that we provide as an industry must have effective protection and we should all have business continuity plans in place – it’s the least we owe to the millions of customers who rely on us.”
A vital part of ASC Cargo and SW Italia’s business – Hong Kong airport – has once again been named the world’s busiest cargo hub. Ignazio Coraci comments.
There were many uncertainties in 2016 – the Brexit vote, the election of President Trump and a generally more protectionist approach to global trade – but the second half of the year still marked an upturn for air cargo markets.
A positive outlook
Airports Council International – who run an annual review of the world’s 20 leading cargo hubs – have released figures that point to a confident mood in the industry. According to their latest study, much of this positivity is down to inventory build-ups and increased export orders – something that should last for the short term at least.
There’s nowhere that this confidence is more evident than in the airport named as the world’s busiest air cargo site – Hong Kong. While the rest of the air cargo industry saw throughput increasing by 3.3% last year – up to 47.4m metric tonnes – Hong Kong saw traffic increase by 3.5% to 4.6m tonnes. The impressive figures for Hong Kong were one of the highlights of Airports Council International’s report that ranked the top 20 cargo airports for 2016 along with the preliminary world airport traffic rankings.
Ignazio comments: “Importantly for ASC Cargo and SW Italia’s business – and for the air cargo industry as a whole – Hong Kong’s continuing strong performance has shown that businesses are feeling increasingly confident about the future. In addition to the encouraging figures for Hong Kong, airports in the crucial US market also appear to be performing strongly, with Memphis, Louisville, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago all appearing in Airports Council International’s top 20 for 2016.”