Was it the same for everyone? Did we all nurse an end-of-year secret wish, a wish that, all of a sudden, capacity would tighten? A wish that rates suddenly peaked and year-end results, instead of flatlining or gently shifting, in fact saved the day?
Well, the fairy godmother didn’t appear. The magic failed to happen and 2012 was certainly no 2010. Of course, we all knew that would be the case – but who didn’t harbour a private desire for it to be better?
And now the stark reality of 2013 is upon us. Several players last year voiced hope, even late in the year, that the first half would be better, brighter, that demand would rise; that the air cargo industry would be, well, needed. But going on the evidence so far, 2013 is looking like it might be another flatliner, another grey-flavoured period where the work is cut out. A year where you have to look for the cargo, because it’s not looking for you.
Even the other faint (and dirty) hope has been dashed, the one in which a US port strike, though crippling for shippers and the US economy, would raise the fortunes of the freighters, perhaps making up for some of those promised volumes from the high-tech shippers which, for the most part, failed to materialise despite last year’s numerous launches.
So what can be done? Another year of belt-tightening, that’s what. A year in which capacity is kept tight, and purse strings held tight. Another year of survival.
But, as ever, we must see opportunities where there are challenges and solutions where there are problems. And the readers of Airline Cargo Management have voted on what they want to see, and it’s innovation. It’s a move away from the past. And surely, now is the time to do it, to create a new mindset, bring in new thinking and create a new industry that is ultimately sustainable.
That doesn’t have to be an expensive dream. While the efficiencies that e-freight will bring are well documented, there is no doubt that many companies are simply unable to invest – that move should have been made in the good times. But in the bad times, at least, there is a discipline that can be exerted, new strategies that can be implemented that don’t eat up dwindling reserves of capital. Whether its pooling resources by outsourcing ULD management, or, as Panalpina is doing, encouraging coopetition among shippers, or, like Air France-KLM, insisting that forwarders are less careless with the truth about volumes, there are things that can be done; quality standards that can be reached, new efficiencies that can be found.
We just need to locate and achieve them. 2013 may not be the year when the market recovers, but let’s make it a memorable year nonetheless. Let 2013 be the year that the air cargo industry changed for the better, because we were bolder, more imaginative, more creative. The future is in our hands. Best of luck, one and all.
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