Multimodal 2017: Ground handling remains the problem area

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The industry needs to improve what happens to cargo on the ground, delegates were told during the “Air freight – improving air cargo performance” session at Multimodal 2017 in Birmingham (UK) on 4 April.

Heathrow Airport head of cargo, Nick Platts says the air component of the supply chain is efficient, with its ability to move cargo around the world in 24 hours, but the problem is getting to the airport and what happens when it gets there.

He points out it can take about seven minutes to get cargo from the control post to the aircraft stand but has often arrived two to three days ahead of the flight.

Platts told delegates: “With margins what they are, I don’t understand why they are not pumping more volumes through. Airfreight is a quick service and we are letting consumers down. Shippers are not happy, pharma is moving to ocean, all service partners need to be aware of the threats. If we don’t improve we will lose market share.”

Platts was joined by Air Canada Cargo general manager Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, Mark Olney, Manchester Airports Group head of cargo, Conan Busby and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol head of cargo, Jonas van Stekelenburg.

The session was moderated by Freight Transport Association head of global policy, Alex Veitch.

Understanding shipper requirements is very important but often they do not know what happens.

Platts says: “Shippers don’t know what happens, don’t know which gateway was used, they give it to the forwarder and it makes it there. For some they are not educated and others don’t want to know.”

Van Stekelenburg also believes the industry needs to stop worrying only about cost but also quality.

He says: “Shippers do not care enough about quality, it’s all about costs, if it’s 1p less you move it. The supermarket has a contract with the forwarder, the handler does not have the contract with the supermarket, they only hear about costs and not other stuff, that’s the problem. Everyone should be more active in improving quality.”

Something that was also discussed was how to cater for e-commerce. The speakers said the level of demand in the peak season took them by surprise but they just about managed.

Olney says: “There was a huge shift of e-commerce into bellies, the issue was we couldn’t supply enough containers. We were swamped with it but just about managed. The sector demands air for the speed, whether it is prepared to pay remains to be seen. As an industry we need to be better prepared.”