Freighter rotations were up 9.7 per cent to 5,400 turnarounds in 2016 for Luxair Cargo at Luxembourg Airport (LUX), which helped drive tonnage.
Executive vice president, Laurent Jossart (pictured) says 821,000 tonnes were handled last year, an uplift of 8.2 per cent compared to 2015, with the third quarter up eight per cent and last quarter up 16 per cent.
He notes the region which developed best into and out of LUX was again the Far East, partly due to the dual-hub strategy of Cargolux, but also because it remains the most important market for airfreight.
The volumes between LUX and China increased in 2016 by 13 per cent. However, there were several big challenges, Jossart says: “First the short term announcement of Qatar Airways to triple their presence here in LUX and the further expansion of the fleet at our biggest customer Cargolux, now operating 26 Boeing 747s.
“We hired more than 150 staff in about a three months period and had to train them before starting their new job in the operation. Our aim was to absorb the additional volume without penalising our performance.”
Luxair he says added one complete build-up lane including immersible ULD build-up/break down positions and constructed a new fast lane truck-loading terminal for ULDs.
Jossart explains outsized business increased in parallel to the overall tonnage, so it extended the dedicated handling area and started building an additional 3,000 square metre shelter for the intermediate storage of big and heavy shipments.
He adds: “Then of course the unforeseeable end-of-year season, which exceeded the already optimistic forecasts by far. The last two months have brought us record volumes with December being +27 per cent compared to the same month in 2015.
“In order to cope with those volumes, we cancelled a high number of leave days to assure a maximum of presence from our experienced staff.”
But what are the plans for 2017?
Jossart says its main project will be replacing its current cargo management system (CMS) with a new one, which will implicate process optimisations in its dispatch as well as in the warehouse.
“In a first phase, all activities from truck to build-up and storage inside of our stacker system (and vice versa) will be managed though the new CMS and in a second phase, the stacker system as well as the ramp handling activity will follow.
“Automated and paperless environment will help to reduce the workload of our staff by streamlining processes. Real-time data will improve the steering of the operation of which all our customers will finally benefit from,” Jossart observes.
He explains investments will include expansion of the ramp handling area and the addition of four widebody aircraft parking positions with construction starting in 2017 and being finalised in 2018 – increasing handling capacity by 50 per cent.
Jossart says: “Being now close to the capacity of the Cargocenter, which is estimated at about 900,000 tonnes per year, the further expansion of the Cargocenter will then has to be analysed as well.
“That step will have to be carefully analysed on how the concept of such an extension should look like and what latest technology will have to be incorporated to assure maximum automatisation.”
Jossart expects growth to be moderate this year: “We do not consider the end-of-the-year-season 2016 as being the start of a new overall excessively upturn in the market, but more back to normal in terms of a seasonal pattern.”