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Cargo things up

Airports in the Middle East are moving in to capitalise on the region’s growing importance in the world cargo network. Stan Abbott looks at how these major hubs and their base carriers are facilitating the transit of growing volumes of freight

Middle Eastern airlines topped the world cargo growth table for the first time in more than two years this summer, according to IATA figures.

The July figure of 5.4% was up from 4.1% in June and reflects the buoyant market in the region. Indeed, just as rival hubs at Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and now Istanbul, jockey for passenger market share, a similar pattern is emerging in air freight.

Competition between hubs is reflected in major investments across the region. These include the imminent arrival of Istanbul’s new Havalimanı İşletmesi Airport, claiming to be the world’s biggest, and a brand new cargo facility at King Abdulaziz International Airport, in Saudi Arabia.

Dubai Airports reports particularly strong growth in cargo volumes at Dubai World Central (DWC), where carryings of 475,190 tonnes in the first half of the year represented a year-on-year increase of 7.1% compared with the 443,835 tonnes recorded last year.

After a robust growth of nearly 9% in the first quarter, cargo volumes at DWC reached 245,359 tonnes in the second quarter, up 5.4% compared with 232,691 tonnes during the same period last year.

Pivotal to the importance of both hubs is Emirates, 14% of whose revenues derived from cargo carrying in their last financial year.

A spokesman said: “Dubai’s strategic geographical position enables us to transport cargo to all four corners of the world, from Europe, to Africa, Asia-Pacific and the USA and is integral to our success.Recent innovations at Emirates SkyCargo include Emirates Wheels for car transport, Emirates Pharma to transport temperature sensitive medication, and Emirates Fresh for perishables, such as fruit and flowers.

Dubai-based global handling agent dnata (Dubai National Air Transport Association) provides cargo handling services to 127 airlines at Dubai International Airport, in addition to World Central, and reports steady growth, driven by both sea-to-air and air-to-air cargo carriage.

Tonnage at the two hubs has risen from 714,429 in 2016-17, to 730,835 in the 12 months to March this year and 308,063 for the five months since then.

Kevin Ennis, Vice President, Commercial and Business Development Cargo, outlines what dnata is doing to make both airports as cargo-efficient as possible: “As our operations expand in tandem with the growth of Dubai as an aviation hub, we rigorously challenge our processes and work practices by applying leading technology and training to improve efficiency and safety – and avoid unnecessary cost on a sustainable basis.

“Last year we opened a new customer service centre and Cargo Integrated Control Centre (CICC) in the Dubai Airport Free Zone, as well as another cargo warehouse, increasing our processing capacity by 25%. Our CICC is a modern investment in a technologically advanced control room that monitors and manages all our cargo export operations.

“It breaks down barriers between our teams and all government agencies by offering one combined work space. It includes a special cargo acceptance area and a new office space for airline and freight forwarding customers, to ensure consistent and collaborative product delivery.”

Ennis adds that in March, dnata became the first ground handler to implement a global roll-out of the iCargo terminal operation suite across all its stations. “This investment will enable us to manage our air cargo movement worldwide seamlessly, and have all our operations on one cargo management IT platform using unified processes. The system will be gradually implemented, and by 2020, we will have a user base of over 5,000 employees across 27 stations in 10 countries.” „

dnata has also taken initiatives to improve product handling. Ennis says the Dubai operations havebeen recently awarded IATA’s Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma). “This means that we have proven our capability to manage the movement of pharmaceutical products safely and reliably, under strictest standards.”

Further investment will focus on streamlining all processes even further. dnata has worked with Dubai Customs Authority to develop the Advanced Cargo Information system (ACI). The system receives cargo shipment information electronically from airlines in advance through standard IATA messages, including flight manifests and air waybills, thereby enabling efficient cargo processing and redispatch.

Appointment and dock management (ADM) allows customers to book a service appointment, select specific services, add vehicle details and update shipment documents in advance.

The traffic management system (TMS) will use number plate recognition to help reduce congestion and waiting times at Dubai Airport Freezone. Meanwhile, the cargo management system (CMS) empowers operations colleagues by delivering relevant information to their fingertips through a mobile handheld device.

“Forwarders, agents and airlines will be handled digitally, in a transparent and efficient manner,” says Ennis. “We’ve already implemented real-time tracking, which enables us to turn around cargo in the shortest possible time.” >>


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