Cutting-edge airfreight in Europe’s centre

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A cutting-edge development in cargo tracking systems is being introduced by Zurich-based Unilode Aviation Solutions with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tags being embedded into the structure of ULDs, writes Stuart Flitton.

The ULD management provider for 40 airlines is teaming up with technology firm OnAsset Intelligence and leading ULD manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace. Among the airlines involved in the digitalisation project are Cathay Pacific, Air Canada, Cargolux and AirBridgeCargo.

Unilode CEO Benoît Dumont, says: “Since winning the inaugural IATA Air Cargo Innovation Award in 2015 we have been working closely with customers to enhance our digital tracking technology with user input across the end-to-end value chain.

“We have now stepped up our efforts and are at present testing the BLE tags in the field in different environments, including airports and warehouses, and plan to roll out the solution in the coming months.”

Unilode Aviation Solutions CEO, Benoit Dumont

Unilode has ULD management agreements with many all-cargo carriers, including AirBridgeCargo Airlines, which recently extended the deal until mid-2023.

Other customers include Cargolux, Cargojet, CargoLogicAir, National Air Cargo and Saudia Cargo.

Unilode also provides ULD maintenance and repair services for around 50 customers, including American Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways, Air France, KLM, and Singapore Airlines. It has 50 certified ULD repair service stations, completing more than 430,000 maintenance and repair work orders every year

Basel-based forwarder and logistics company Panalpina, which has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum of tech and transportation companies for the development and implementation of blockchain standards.

Panalpina head of digital innovation, Luca Graf says: “We will look at ways to integrate blockchain technology in complex core systems in the long run. Here the focus is clearly on reliability, standardisation and partnerships with bigger, established companies.

“We will also run pilots and trials using blockchain, likely together with start-ups. The focus here lies on exploration and specific market and customer needs.”

Panalpina transported 995,900 tonnes of air freight last year, an increase of 8.1 per cent and has 500 offices in more than 70 countries.

Its air cargo operating earnings grew by 17.3 per cent with a 22.3 per cent hike for Q4 over the same period the previous year.

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) was founded in March 2002, after the bankruptcy of Swissair. SWISS’s freight division, Swiss WorldCargo, is based at Zurich Airport and offers a comprehensive range of logistics solutions for transporting various types of cargo, including high-value and care-intensive consignments to 130 destinations in more than 84 countries.

The airline operates a mix of Airbus A330, A340 and Boeing 777-300ER on long-haul routes, and a mix of A319s, A320, A321 and Bombardier C-series aircraft on short or medium-haul routes.

It is looking at continuing to refurbish its Airbus fleet, as well as replacing older models with the 777-300ER.

“This is an ongoing process as we continue to work towards operating Europe’s most advanced fleet,” the airline says, adding that SWISS has recently placed an order for two more 777-300ERs, which will offer new opportunities.

The Bombardier C-series offers various benefits, including reduced fuel consumption and noise, optimised aerodynamics, and overall is a lighter aircraft than some alternatives.

The Bombardier offers Swiss WorldCargo increased capacity access on its European routes.

The purchase of an additional two new Boeing 777-300ER will offer an opportunity to open new routes over the next few years and these are expected to be announced next year.

Expansion of the passenger route network means there will be new opportunities to ship cargo throughout the world.

Swiss WorldCargo head of cargo, Ashwin Bhat

Swiss WorldCargo head of cargo, Ashwin Bhat says: “Our business continues to grow and shows signs of success. However, in the past year this has also raised expectations and thus we must continue to push ahead.

“We certainly see a strong potential area of growth in the US, which is a major player. There, we must stay especially focused and continue to show our expertise, as we face fierce competition from an array of airlines flying to Europe.

“In terms of key areas, we are continuing to focus on pharma and ecommerce. We hope to have gained IATA’s CEIV certification in the next few weeks, which will further showcase us as a pharma carrier of choice.”

Swiss WorldCargo sees opportunities for grapid growth in pharma. The company has taken several steps, including preparing for the CEIV certification and creating designated quality corridors, or certified trade lanes covering global pharma routes between Zurich and other destinations.