Unilode Aviation Services is targeting winning ULD management business from carriers in the Middle East and Asian markets in 2017.
President and chief executive officer, Dr. Ludwig Bertsch (pictured below) says both regions have lots of potential with airlines operating large fleets of widebody aircraft and there is an impressive growth rate predicted for the next few years.
“We are in an advanced stage of negotiations with a number of Middle Eastern carriers and hope to announce significant business wins shortly,” he adds.
Earlier this month, Unilode was rebranded from CHEP after EQT Infrastructure bought the company in November 2016 from Australian logistics firm Brambles in a $130 million Australian dollar deal.
Bertsch says the rebranding signals a “new beginning” with positive spirit and eagerness to prove its value as a standalone company, while all management and staff have remained and everyone is excited about the future under EQT’s ownership.
He adds: “Our new name Unilode was announced just a few weeks ago and the rebranding of our business is in progress. Given the large number of containers in our ULD pool the change of logo on the units may take up to two years but otherwise the rebranding will be carried out quite quickly.
“We will exhibit under our new brand at WCS in Abu Dhabi and air cargo europe in Munich, and launch our new website in March.
“We have received very positive feedback on our new brand from our partners and look forward on building the Unilode brand with values, which are meaningful to our people and both our current and future customers.”
As for how 2016 went, he says it consolidated its position in the market and it provides ULD management for 40 airlines and servicing the ULD and galley cart fleet of around 50 customers.
Bertsch says: “This is an amazing growth over the last few years and proves the increasing popularity of outsourced ULD management. We have also hit the mark of 100,000 units in our ULD fleet, which is the largest independent ULD fleet in the industry.”
Notable wins were a ULD management contract with LATAM Airlines, which has added 13,000 ULDs to its fleet and increased the number of airports in its network to 450. Operations started in September and he says it is running smoothly.
Unilode also entered into ULD management partnership with regional and leisure carriers, extended its ULD management agreement with Cargolux, SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Air Europa, and secured a long-term ULD repair contract with Singapore Airlines.
Bertsch says in 2017 it will aim to partner with even more airlines and notes EQT will provide it with the financial support and expertise to accelerate the business to meet their expectations in terms of profitability and revenue growth.
But he explains ULD repair costs are still too high, but awareness campaigns on the correct way to handle ULDs is helping and it now applies a ‘handle with care’ sticker on containers to advise ground handlers ULDs are considered part of the aircraft and incorrect handling may put the crew and passengers at risk.
“As the industry continues to raise awareness we expect to see some improvement this year. But frankly as long as the ground handling industry is not willing to accept responsibility for the proper handling of ULDs and does not suffer financial consequences for causing unnecessary damage this will remain an uphill battle,” Bertsch adds.
Bertsch says it will make investments in replacing older containers with new lightweight units, and in innovative IT solutions with improvements planned in its CanTrack systems for ULD management and in ACTIS software for the repair business.
“This year we will open new repair stations and modernise several facilities and look forward to serving even more customers in 2017 and beyond,” he adds.