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Editor's note – June 2015

In this issue, we look at ‘cargo communities’ around the world. A boost for e-freight, local supply chain efficiencies and the regional industry, these clusters are springing up in more and more countries.

The UK has always been something of an anomaly. Yes, it’s relatively well advanced in e-freight – thanks in part to the insistence of IAG Cargo – but its main airport, London Heathrow, constricted as it is by both capacity and regulation, has never been at the forefront of air freight development, despite impressive volumes. The cargo community itself, while socially engaged, has not had the same enthusiasm for developing UK air freight in the same way that, for example, communities in Amsterdam or Frankfurt have.


This looks set to change. Heathrow, in the fierce battle to be allowed a third runway, has upped its freight game. Speaking at the air freight seminars at the UK’s Multimodal show in April, Nick Platts, head of ground handling at the airport, indicated that it may appoint a cargo chief. It is also, he announced, working on a strategy for cargo. While acknowledging that it is about a decade behind its rivals in Amsterdam and Frankfurt, he did say it was trying to improve. A third runway could be crucial to its success, but whatever happens, the UK’s hub airport has finally put freight on its agenda.


Not only that, but the UK government has put money into innovation in logistics. A source involved said that it could be used to support UK air freight, perhaps even to help set up a cargo community to focus on the needs of the industry.


It’s a tentative start, but a start nevertheless. It will, perhaps, all hinge on that third runway for Heathrow. If the government, despite its financial support for logistics, goes against the wishes of the freight community, as well as the shippers and chooses either to do nothing or add capacity at Gatwick this note of optimism may well fizzle out. But if it elects to support Heathrow’s expansion, which could result in a third runway by 2025, then the UK’s air cargo industry may finally start to take more of a lead, allowing it to catch up with its more sophisticated neighbours in continental Europe.



Alexandra Lennane


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