Has DUS Airport Reached its Cargo Borders?

CargoForwarder Global posed the above and other questions to Dusseldorf Airport Cargo M.D., Gerton Hulsman in an exclusive interview given in DUS last week.
DUS Airport Cargo which is a 100 percent daughter of Dusseldorf Airport was founded in its present form in 2001, has some 180 employees and handled a total 110,000 tons of air cargo in 2013. The company runs a 24/7 operation from its 12.600 sqm warehouse and additional offices.

Bellyhold freight on passenger services is Dusseldorf Airport Cargo’s bread and butter biz  /  source: hs
Bellyhold freight on passenger services is Dusseldorf Airport Cargo’s bread and butter biz / source: hs

Gerton informs that the 110,000 tons handled in 2013 represent a 10 percent increase over 2012 and that the present warehouse was utilized by up to eighty percent.
“Not a bad year, considering the slowdown in air cargo movements as a whole,” he says.
American Airlines joined up at DUS during 2013 by operating a daily Boeing 767 passenger connection to the USA and thereby offering additional capacity on the North Atlantic sector.

It is interesting to note that during 2013 DUS airport passenger aircraft movement declined by almost 3 percent whereby passengers flown increased by 2 percent and cargo tonnage flown went up by ten percent.
Thomas Schuermann, Sales & Marketing Manager at DUS Cargo puts this down to less narrow body passenger flights but an increase in wide body aircraft offering more belly and passenger capacity compared to 2012. This trend which started in 2009 already he says will continue in 2014.

“2014 has got off to a good start for our cargo handling,” Gerton Hulsman states.
“We are aiming to reach 120,000 tons in total this year, which will be a further ten percent up on 2013 figures,” he says.
January to April figures show a healthy 5 percent increase on the same period over 2013, with April alone, despite a late Easter period, showing a 14 percent increase.
If the above trend continues, then DUS Cargo’s warehouse will almost be cubed out at around 90 percent.
This does not give much room or chance for further expansion if present facilities remain as they are.

Gerton Hulsman
Gerton Hulsman

Where does this cargo increase come from?
New carriers are one issue. Japan’s ANA started on 1. April a daily 787 ‘Dreamliner’ operation from DUS to TYO, thereby offering much need capacity for exports and imports to and from Japan.
Thomas Schuermann informs that Air Ukraine is starting a daily Boeing 737 service from DUS to Kiev and that hopefully other carriers will be in the pipeline.
Gerton also mentions the fact that aircraft types being used from DUS are becoming larger and therefore offering more belly capacity. This, along with changing seasonal demands, leads to a much welcomed increase.
He mentions one distinct example of this: Turkish Airlines (TK) has five flights a day between DUS and Istanbul. Due to the increasing ethnic and tourist passenger demand, two of these sectors are operated with Airbus A330 aircraft and the remaining with 737s or A320 aircraft.
Plenty of belly capacity in and out!

Another interesting aspect is that from total tonnage handled at DUS, 80 percent is flown directly and the remaining 20 percent is built up on ULD’s at DUS Cargo’s warehouse and moved by RFS to airports such as AMS, FRA, CDG or LHR. The same applies for import ULD’s from these cities which arrive at DUS.

So, what future does DUS have as an air cargo airport?
Dusseldorf is the capital of North-Rhine Westphalia, or NRW as its commonly called, which with its 18 million inhabitants is the most densely populated area in Germany.
NRW produces up to 1.6 million tons of air cargo per annum which in turn is equivalent to between 18 - 20 percent of all German air cargo exports.

There are more than 12,000 Japanese nationals living and working in and around DUS. They are mainly employees of Japanese companies who have production and development plants in the area.
Gerton Hulsman states that these figures are increasing gradually with the influx of Chinese and Indian businessmen who are investing in NRW.

1.6 million tons of air cargo per annum, and DUS only gets to handle about 7 percent of the total. Rather disappointing for the DUS Cargo managers to see so much of this cargo slipping through their fingers.
One could maybe argue that Cologne airport which is just 40 kilometers down the road and has a 24/7 open operation is siphoning off much of this traffic.
This, however, is not the case.
CGN handles much more cargo than DUS, but the vast majority of it is contributed by the integrators such as UPS, Fedex and DHL, where the express product dominates over general cargo.

Schuermann Thomas
Schuermann Thomas

Fact is, most NRW air cargo is moving either across the borders to AMS and CDG or down to the large German hubs at FRA and MUC.

Is there a solution for DUS Cargo?
“Space is very tight,” says Mr Hulsman. “We have to make do at the moment with what we have.”
“Our warehouse with its 12,600 sqm capacity is now at its limit and to overburden it further would only result in a service decline for our present clients,” he adds.
CFG’s tour of the warehouse showed that space has been allocated optimally for smooth and speedy cargo handling and that DUS Cargo offers excellent cooling facilities as well as two modern X-ray machines, DGR, Valuable storage etc.

The DUS Cargo managers make no secret of the fact that they are “looking outside of the box” to try and determine how a future expansion can take place.
“Off airport is one of the easiest but maybe not the most viable solution,” Gerton goes on to say. “We are looking closely at one or the other solutions in this area,” he adds.
The airport itself cannot offer any additional space.

It can be honestly said that cargo does contribute much to DUS airport’s bottom line. However, are the airport managers and the shareholders really on the ball as far as looking at a mid-long term solution to enhance cargo revenues and attract more carriers with wide body passenger and cargo capacity to their facility?
Fifty percent is owned by the city of Dusseldorf and the remaining 50 percent by a tri- consortium which includes Dublin’s Aer Rianta PLC.

We can assume that CGN & DUS basically have the same problem.
It would be naive to think that both airports would (or even could) combine operations despite their geographical nearness.

But, air cargo optimization!
CGN has space, DUS does not!
Both are missing out on the lion’s share of the NRW air cargo production.
Would it then also be naive to think of considering cooperation by both airports in this sector?

We suppose that a lot can only depend on shareholder and top management commitment to cargo.
The question there remains - are they interested in cargo on the long term?
We certainly assume they are, as there is enough of it in the NRW area.

John Mc Donagh

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