Following 17 per cent perishables growth so far in 2017, Qatar Airways senior vice president and acting chief officer for cargo, Guillaume Halleux is expecting a surge in demand in 2018, writes James Muir.
The airline has transported over 135,000 tonnes of perishables to date, 17 per cent growth in 2016-17 compared to 2015-16, and Qatar Airways is expecting numbers to increase for the remainder of the year as the peak season approaches.
Halleux adds: “In 2018, we are expecting a surge in demand for fresh seasonal produce globally.”
He also says: “We anticipate steady year-on-year growth in perishable cargo worldwide given our strategic expansion in our cargo network and fleet, we can offer the right capacity to serve the important fresh product producing regions.
“Amongst our top five highest perishable uplift countries over the last 12 months are Turkey, Norway, Australia, Netherland and India.”
Freight arm Qatar Airways Cargo handles all kinds of perishables such as fruits, flowers, seafood and meat, and its QR Fresh solution provides reliable, on time transfers and ensure a seamless cool chain for perishables.
Halleux says: “We provide customers with a swift and efficient, 90 minute transit time at our Doha hub while a dedicated Climate Control team proactively monitors every temperature controlled shipment from the beginning to the end of transportation.”
Refrigerated trucks at its Doha hub are used to transfer and store shipments requiring cooling during transit between the aircraft and its Climate Control Centre (CCC).
Halleux explains: “The trucks are also deployed for short connection that even at a distance of 200 metres, we will transfer goods in these trucks into the refrigerated area of the warehouse.
“We have invested in these vehicles to make sure there’s never a gap in the cool chain for shipments transiting the Doha hub.”
Qatar Airways’ 2,470 square metre CCC opened earlier this year is an airside transit facility with segregated temperature controlled sections for pharmaceuticals and perishables with two zones operating for 2-8°C and 15-25°C, with a capacity to hold 156 ULDs at a time, in addition to 64 temperature controlled cells at the cargo terminal’s cold room. Six truck docks with inflated curtains seal around the truck when docked to ensure complete temperature integrity.
Halleux says the facility enables Qatar Airways to handle an additional two million tonnes throughput per annum.
Qatar Airways handles perishables around the world, and Halleux comments that handling capabilities can vary across stations and regions. The airline expects consistency in terms of safety, security, quality and operations.
He explains: “We set high standards for these disciplines and the capabilities of our ground handling agents are rigorously assessed with each new route launched or expiry of handling contract at existing stations.
“Our Network Handling Partner programme enables us to have an established framework with the global handling companies to ensure our specific requirements are met, irrespective of location.”
Halleux also says: “Cool chain transportation is a challenge at airports that do not have dedicated facilities but still import perishables due to local demands and population growth. In such cases, we work with all parties involved to come up with the best solutions for our customers, ensuring the cool chain is seamless and unbroken.”
The airline has introduced seven freighter destinations in 2017 and perishables are very important exports at most of these destinations. It is seeing exports of flowers from Quito, berries from Buenos Aires, fish from London, fruit and vegetables from Phnom Penh and flowers and fruit from Miami.
Halleux says: “The expansion of our freighter and belly network provides businesses in the new destinations access to our global network of over 150 destinations via our hub in Doha and provides importers worldwide the fast and cost-effective option to directly transport perishables from these destinations.”
Charter services are also available, Halleux explains: “Customers can also opt for QR Charter services to transport huge loads of perishables, where we provide full, part or combination charter services to destinations not served by our scheduled flights. Qatar Airways Cargo has also been very flexible in providing additional capacity to our customers during the peak periods.”
Charter flights have proved popular; last November it operated nine charters to transport over 850 tonnes of seasonal Chilean cherries from Santiago to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong via its hub in Doha.
Halleux says: “Demand for perishable product such as salmon, blueberries and cherries to be flown into China is high due to the needs of its growing local markets.
“We also see a huge surge in the exports of flowers each year leading up to Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, from Africa and South America.”
Temperature sensitive cargo such as pharmaceuticals and perishables are a large and growing segment, and is expected to continue growing due to population growth, growing middle classes and income growth in developing countries.
Halleux says: “We believe airfreight of fresh produce adds to the valuable shelf life and quick product availability in the market and these key benefits justify the cost of airfreight over sea which customers will continue to take advantage of and reap greater returns in their high turn-around consumable goods trade business.”