Premium focus at Viracopos as volumes recover after 2016

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After a challenging year in 2016 due to economic problems in Brazil, cargo at Viracopos International Airport has picked up in the first four months, director of operations Marcelo Mota tells Air Cargo Week.

Viracopos near Sao Paulo (pictured) handled 124,561 tonnes of imported cargo in 2015, which fell 17 per cent in 2016 to 103,390 tonnes. Exports were better, growing 11.6 per cent from 52,486 tonnes in 2015 to 58,569 tonnes in 2016, while the first four months have seen growth of 19.2 per cent to 18,860 tonnes compared to the same period of 2016.

Imports increased 18.5 per cent in the first four months of 2017 compared to 2016, handling 37,230 tonnes, but each month is still some way below 2015.

In April 2015, Viracopos handled 10,867 tonnes of imports, which fell 24.1 per cent to 8,243 tonnes in 2016 before recovering 11.1 per cent to 9,162 tonnes in 2017.

Mota says despite a significant drop in cargo volumes, revenue increased 1.5 per cent due to management measures and investing in infrastructure.

He says: “One of our main actions, for example, was to focus on different cargo profiles, especially the higher-priced pharmaceuticals and high-tech products that are lighter but more valuable.”

ABV, the concessionaire of Viracopos has been investing infrastructure, security and information systems to improve efficiency. The Viracopos Cargo Terminal (TECA) is one of busiest in Brazil, Mota says: “In addition to having a large and modern structure to handle, store and release cargo, it is responsible for handling nearly 40 per cent of all imported air cargo in the country.”

Viracopos began constructing a high security terminal in partnership with Brinks with September 2015, and came into operation in April 2016. Mota says the 1,560m2 area inside TECA houses the most complete special security structure for high value cargo among Latin American airports.

He says: “The site has all physical and technological infrastructure used in similar operations at the most important airports around the world, including a special area with controlled temperature, which can hold pharmaceutical products and other cargo that requires this type of environment.”

TECA operations have also relied on the Warehouse Management System (WMS), improving productivity, management and availability of information to customers. The R$9 million investment included implementing the WMS, the new Customs Registry System and the Billing System, all fully integrated.

Mota says: “The system can identify the best storage location for each type of cargo volume arriving at the terminal, optimising spaces and maximising operational efficiency.”

“The new WMS provides better security and speed in the storage of cargo, in addition to better compliance with current legislation, because it has a more efficient customs registry. All of this improves the level of services rendered to our customers and regulatory agencies.”

Viracopos also signed a deal with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to start Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics certification (CEIV) in early 2016.

Mota says: “Viracopos is one of the only two airports in Latin America that is in the process of obtaining the CEIV Pharma certification. The certification process is expected to be concluded within six months.”

ABV, the concessionaire of Viracopos has also created an incentive program aimed at strengthening the airport’s position as a major cargo hub, and is negotiating proposals for new routes and additional cargo frequencies, which are still being finalised.

Airlines can receive up to 100 per cent exemption of landing fees as long as they meet criteria including operating cargo aircraft on new international frequencies and/or have Viracopos as an origin or destination.

Mota says: “Our program offers attractive, transparent and non-discriminatory incentives to all airlines that wishes to fly or expand its operations from Viracopos.”

Mota believes the improvement of the Brazilian economy and resumption of industrial activity is a challenge, and there is a need for increased investments in transport and logistics infrastructure, and greater integration between different modes of transport.

He also says there is great potential and many opportunities for growth, explaining: “To achieve this, there must be greater integration between countries. Viracopos plays an important role in this market, since it is the largest cargo airport in Brazil.”