Air Cargo India: more infrastructure needed to grow air cargo industry

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Indian airports need better infrastructure in order to grow air cargo tonnage volumes and meet rising demand, delegates at the Air Cargo India conference and exhibition in Mumbai heard today.

The need for facility upgrades was raised during the event’s first round table session ‘Delivering the ‘Make in India vision to the world the air cargo way’ moderated by the International Air Transport Association’s cargo head, Glyn Hughes.

Infrastructure came to the fore when Hughes asked panelists what advice they would give Indian Prime Minister Nardendra Modi about what is needed to develop the air cargo market in India.

PM Modi revealed in a letter to the event, that airfreight is a key aspect of the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative which it launched this year and has attracted significant foreign direct investment.

Delhi International Airport’s head of cargo business and chairman of the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), Sanjiv Edward told delegates he wants the government to “commit to develop the infrastructure to make the industry grow” through development in regional airports. He adds: “For India to grow we need to develop our gateways and a commitment to infrastructure in our gateways to get this place on the world map.”

Edward used China as an example, where he says substantial investment has been made in cargo infrastructure across the nation’s airport network.

Air India executive director for cargo, D Murali agrees with Edward and explains regional airports need cargo infrastructure like the major hubs such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

“The six metros have the infrastructure and the other airports have the potential but don’t have warehouses or facilities which is very important for cargo to be cleared. There is a lot of major infrastructure problems and we are unable to move cargo at smaller airports and we need to connect it to the major hubs,” Murali says.

He adds: “The airports authority has started and maybe in the future we hopefully we will have the infrastructure and we can then connect cargo to the major hubs. We have cargo potential but there needs to be facilities.”

The overall view of panelists about the Indian air cargo market was one of positivity but they clearly felt improvements are still needed across the supply chain. All praised the government for plans it has made to develop the air cargo industry.

Chapman Freeborn chief executive officer, Russi Batliwala feels the airfreight mode of transport needs to be sold more in India: “I think we are there, we have the carriers, the airports, the infrastructure but what we don’t have is people selling, and it is something the forwarders need to concentrate on.

“The air cargo industry is flexible and has many benefits, but we need to go out there and tell the shippers this and sell it.”

One area needing attention is the dwell time of cargo at hubs labelling it “dismal’, and  Mumbai International Airport’s head of cargo and vice president, Manoj Singh says is a “challenge” and needs to be reduced.

Atlas Worldwide executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Michael Steen says India is an exciting market to invest in for his company as there is potential, but he says the total supply chain is not ready and “a lot of work needs to be done”. Steen praised the government’s plans for the industry, urging it to “stick with the plan”.