Heathrow Airport has been growing its cargo tonnage and has had 13 successive months of record volumes.
In the first eight months of 2017, volumes grew year-on-year (YOY) by 10.3 per cent passing 1.1 million tonnes, and were up 8.7 per cent to over 1.6 million tonnes on a rolling 12-month basis.
Head of cargo, Nick Platts (pictured above) is expecting a busy peak ahead of Christmas and say he has been working with colleagues across the airport about doing all it can to ensure a “timely and predictable flow” of cargo during this time.
“It’s hard to say whether we’ll see volumes significantly higher than last year’s peak given recent global trade trends. We are hopeful we will continue to deliver record volumes of cargo through our airport,” Platts explains.
He says this year the YOY rise is widespread and it doesn’t seem to be attributable to a particular product launch or lane.
The landmark 12 months for Heathrow’s freight services has seen scheduled cargo services started by Qatar Airways Cargo and AirBridgeCargo Airlines. Platt says the gateway is pleased to see “more requests for freighters in our winter schedule” so there may yet be more freighters arriving.
The building of a third runway would definitely boost cargo, Platts says giving the hub greater capacity and open up some constrained trade routes, which he says are much needed to maintain the UK an outward-looking trading nation after Brexit.
An efficiency drive has been in action in terms of cargo and Platts says it has been gathering more information and speaking to more people about how Heathrow can help.
He says: “We recently completed a workshop with over 50 people from across the industry to develop a ‘Journey Map’ for cargo, which has identified some pain points and we’re now developing an action plan to address them. Some of those pain points are outside of our control so we’ll work with the appropriate stakeholders on those.”
There are opportunities and Platts believes the airport now needs to action positive change but it is making infrastructure improvements and enabling better planning so it can deliver incremental improvements. “Once we get ‘Cargo Cloud’ our application that will facilitate load consolidations between members of the freight community, and the Call-Forward project which will reduce congestion in our cargo sheds area. We’ll start to see the benefits flow through,” he explains.
The biggest challenge he feels is retaining the open dialogue with partners, and collaborating on action plans and encouraging stakeholders to embrace new technology and different business processes.
Heathrow started the Cargo Service Quality (CSQ) scheme with likeminded European airports back in November 2015 and Platts says it continues to look for “reliable objective data” that it can use to benchmark across us all.
As for the next few years, he says it is “more of the same”, adding: “We’ll be looking at all of the projects and ideas we have that will deliver a timely and more predictable flow of cargo.
“We’re working closely with colleagues in the expansion team to ensure we deliver on targets to double cargo capacity with expansion and ensure a third runway is able to deliver the UK more opportunities for international trade.”