Network expansion helps Schiphol grow tonnage

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Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Tonnage at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol was up two per cent year-on-year (YOY) in the first seven months of 2016 – as July boosted the figures when YOY growth was 4.4 per cent reaching 139,650 tonnes.

During the period, Europe has performed strongly, up YOY by 42.6 per cent and driven by the addition of new carrier Silk Way Airlines, from Baku, and Jet Airways to India, while AirBridgeCargo Airlines, has extended services via Moscow, and DHL and Cargolux have also upped frequencies.

Schiphol’s network is set to grow further and cargo director, Jonas van Stekelenburg (pictured) says it is in a number of promising discussions with carriers, and is looking to announce more at the end of the year.

The Far East has delivered despite concerns about the Chinese economy, as imports were up YOY by 4.1 per cent in the first seven months of the year.

Indeed, van Stekelenburg puts much of the growth down to Schiphol’s strong connectivity into Asia Pacific, the hub’s biggest market.

He is confident the airport remains an attractive hub for the rising amounts of e-commerce shipments coming from the region despite uncertainty in China, and it experienced only a 0.9 per cent YOY dip for Asia during July.

For 2016 as a whole, van Stekelenburg predicts based on Schiphol’s own performance and the rest of the market, it will see YOY growth of two per cent on 2015. He explains: “The upcoming half-year will further boost our stronger verticals such as perishables and drive up the high-tech market, particularly from Asia, as more and more gifts are bought online.”

Schiphol is somewhat of the flower hub in Europe, which keeps its performance in the perishables sector strong and steady, while van Stekelenburg says it is also seeing promising results in pharmaceuticals and e-commerce.

Pharma has been boosted in part by the Pharma Gateway Amsterdam (PGA) initiative at Schiphol, put in place by the whole community and van Stekelenburg says it means through clarity and tracking Schiphol is providing the “best service ever” to pharma customers.

He adds: “E-commerce has surprised us with the performance; through conversations with Dutch Customs, with whom we work closely, it is clear that the number of small shipments are up, and they are seeing an increased number of declarations each month. We see this particularly as an area of opportunity to improve service delivery.”

2016 has not shown the same strong increase in bellyhold tonnage, which it saw last year but rather held at consistently high levels, a trend it attributes to the increase in e-commerce shipments, as smaller parcels are transiting Schiphol in ever increasing numbers, a sentiment he notes is echoed by colleagues in Customs.

Integrators are doing particularly well, while freighters and bellyhold are currently on par, with full freighter movements up 7.1 per cent in the first seven months of 2016.

Expansion of cargo infrastructure is also on the cards and van Stekelenburg says he is in the planning stage with all stakeholders, but the hub needs to make sure it gets development right from the very beginning.

But it is much needed as due to passenger numbers rising each year, Schiphol is facing new considerations regarding airport capacity, especially when planning any expansion.

He says: “A month ago airport movements at Schiphol were second largest in Europe with an almost 10 per cent increase compared to last year. We celebrate such positive results and look forward to tackling the challenges they present.

“Currently we’re considering how we would accommodate for idle aircraft and other spaces, a decision we expect to involve our whole cargo community in making.”

The big opportunity for Schiphol is the pharma sector in van Stekelenburg’s opinion as the PGA initiative is able to provide customers with the levels of quality and transparency they expect: “Forwarders, handlers and airline members of PGA work together to devise and hold one another accountable for a single set of high quality pharma handling standards.”

Hot on the heels for opportunities is e-commerce, which is an area of huge growth at Schiphol especially for small parcels and the gateway is embracing the cargo landscape and working with the cargo community on initiatives aimed at providing customers with the  best quality they can.

Like many airports with major cargo flows, digitising processes and going paperless is seen as vital to improve efficiency and drive business.

Schiphol was an early adopter of the e-freight process, and is part of the International Air Transport Association 360 program and e-freight at Schiphol continues to grow and now represents 40 per cent of all freight.

This is likely to grow further and van Stekelenburg says uptake for the Schiphol Cargo Community’s eLink program, which is based around a smart card enabling paperless transfer of all shipment data to handlers at the airport, has risen steadily throughout 2016.

He says Schiphol is committed to working with all sectors of the industry to accelerate the implementation of e-freight across the supply chain, with eLink is integral to this, van Stekelenburg says: “The benefits of eLink are significant and has been shown to save up to 25 per cent of time on some ground handling processes.

“The elimination of data rekeying also helps with accuracy, which will become even more important as new security initiatives including advance data requirements are brought in.

“The challenge is to engage all sectors of the air cargo chain and at Schiphol we are doing just that.”