Across the Benelux region, business grew by 7.2% for Wallenborn with Belgium leading the way as airlines increasingly fly into Liege due to slot reductions in Amsterdam.
Frantz Wallenborn, president and CEO of the Luxembourg-headquartered transportation company, which provides extensive road feeder services to the air cargo industry tells Air Cargo Week that Belgium grew 55% with Liege Airport alone reporting 21.4% growth.
He says: “As a result of all this rapid growth, we adapted and registered numerous trucks in Belgium to help the local team meet the new needs of our customers. As expected, Schiphol dropped in volume a little, and Luxembourg remained more or less steady in terms of volumes.”
This year has got off to a good start, with revenue in Luxembourg up 5% and Belgium close behind at 4.6%, while the Netherlands was more modest at 1.3%.
The rise in e-commerce is expected to further drive up volumes but there are still issues such as a lack of drivers and the never-ending Brexit uncertainty.
Challenges can provide opportunities for companies, with Wallenborn commenting: “As a result of all the changes driven by the Schiphol slot reductions last year, our Benelux team actually found ways to better collaborate and reduce empty km and downtime – this will serve the team well moving forward.”
The biggest volumes are clustered around the corridors linking Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Liege, London Heathrow and Luxembourg.
Wallenborn comments: “In the past three years, Liege grew significantly and Luxembourg has also been growing faster than other airports. Other important trade lanes are Italy and Scandinavia.”
With offices in Luxembourg, Liege and Amsterdam, as well as moving cargo out of Brussels, Wallenborn believes the company has very good regional coverage, saying: “At the end of the day the three countries are small, and to date there has been no need to open more offices in any of the three countries. Our expansion is always primarily driven by customer needs, and to date our key accounts have been more than happy with the service provided.”
Wallenborn sees a strong future for the company, with volumes growing driven by the ever growing demand for e-commerce.
He comments: “The continuous rise of e-commerce practically demands it. There will also be an ever increasing requirement to reduce costs, and trucking is a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to flying the cargo, especially on shorter routes.”
Luxembourg is well located for growth, being home to Cargolux, Europe’s largest cargo airline and being a key hub for other major airlines.
Alibaba plan to use Liege as a hub, and the Netherlands benefits not only from its air links, but also the strength of the port of Rotterdam.
Airports will need to make improvements to cope, waiting times at cargo terminals can be “painfully long” and secure parking is a challenge.
Driver shortages are an issue, with reports saying there is an average 21% shortfall across Europe.
Wallenborn says: “Belgium was cited as one of the problem countries. This will continue to be a challenge as companies wrestle with recruiting, retaining staff and simultaneously keeping costs under control.”
Capacity constraints at major hubs such as Amsterdam and Frankfurt could help distribute volumes across the region.
Wallenborn says: “As those airports become more and more overloaded, more flights will start coming into Luxembourg, Liege and Brussels, thereby providing more opportunity for truckers.”