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.”
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.”
With proposals for new regulations on the use of small drones for commercial use in the pipeline, Ignazio Coraci gives his thoughts on the implications of this technology for the future of the air cargo business
The future may very well be unmanned. Whether drones will ever replace the full scale aircraft used by air cargo operators like ASC Cargo and SW Italia is doubtful, but the development of drone technology is already having an interesting implications for our industry.
One early sign of the growing importance of drone technology has been the recent deal between DHL and Chines consumer electronics exporter, Shenzhen Youkeshu Technologies. DHL’s Global Forwarding air and ocean freight specialist business has agreed to manage shipments of the Chinese company’s drones and unmanned vehicles to over 100 countries – and while DHL won’t be using drones to make their own deliveries just yet, the quantities of the products being transported are a sign of the rapid growth of this area of technology.
The shape of things to come?
Take another recent development – the release of pictures of a prototype unmanned vehicle that could soon be running up to 315 kilos of cargo between Los Angeles and Hawaii. It’s early days of course, but the start up business – called Natilus – is interesting, because the vehicle they’ve created would be able to integrate into the kind of infrastructure that already exists in the industry. The prototype would be able to dock at a traditional maritime port slip – and the team behind it plan to have it up and flying by 2020.
Finally, the recent legislative proposals by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) aim to address the safety issues around the operation of small drones, as well as privacy, security and data protection concerns.
A changing landscape
Ignazio comments: “The legislation shows just how significant this kind of technology is becoming. Whatever the ultimate implications are for the air cargo industry, it’s clear that drones and unmanned vehicles will almost certainly become an important part of the transport infrastructure – and as customers continue to demand delivery systems that are more rapid, more agile and more flexible, everyone in the industry needs to adapt to this changing landscape.”