More than Tulips in Amsterdam

“Logistics has been in the genetic make-up of the Dutch for centuries,” says Enno Osinga, Senior Vice-President Cargo at Schiphol Airport Group. And, of course, the far-seeing and excellent performance of Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), the branch organization of the stakeholders in the cargo process.

“eLink is our tool to further speed up the ground processes,” states Enno Osinga, Head of Cargo at AMS  /  source: AMS
“eLink is our tool to further speed up the ground processes,” states Enno Osinga, Head of Cargo at AMS / source: AMS

The air freight business at Amsterdam airport is, indeed, run by a closely knit community, that was severely shaken by the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH017 over the separatists-controlled eastern parts of the Ukraine. An event in which Schiphol Airport, or Malaysian Airlines, bears no responsibility whatsoever.

So far, neither the cargo community nor the local MASKargo at AMS airport have commented on the tragedy. “Even when full of passengers and their luggage, a Boeing 777 will still have some 23 tons available for cargo”, said Enno 2 days before the disaster. This is, indeed, the volume the aircraft could have been carrying on its fatal journey. The wide range of nationalities among the victims is a sad reminder of the international appeal of Schiphol both on the passenger and the cargo side. It explains why The Netherlands, a country of a mere 15 million people, can boast an airport that in terms of airfreight matches the likes of Heathrow, CDG and Frankfurt.

Tonnage keeps on rising
After six months into 2014, Amsterdam Schiphol has recorded a volume of 801,701 tons actually flown cargo, an increase of 8.8%. Flowers, Amsterdam’s traditional trade mark, make up some 15% of the volume. In 2013, too, the volume had risen by 3.2% to 1,531 million tons. Of the tonnage of the first half of 2014, exactly 412,246 tons were inbound, 399,455 outbound. This June, Schiphol experienced a remarkable fact, says Enno. “For a long time, as in all European airports, the cargo volume originating in Asia was larger than the other way round, but in the last few years we had an almost perfect balance between in and outbound Asia volumes. This June, however, inbound cargo traffic from Asia grew much stronger (+17.3%) than inbound (+3.1%). This may indicate a rebound of economic growth in Europe.”

Schiphol , Europe’s third largest air cargo hub in Europe owes everything to the fact that the Netherlands are home to about 50% of the European Distribution Centers, from which products of all kinds are distributed all over the Old Continent in very tightly-knit supply chains. “Quality is the key,” thinks Enno, “and, of course, there is also the combination with the port of Rotterdam. Shippers who import 80% of their volume through the port are likely to bring in their air cargo shipments though Schiphol.”

Speeding up ground processes
Together with ACN Schiphol Airport has developed eLink, a state-of-the-art automated system generating information on the consignment starting at the shipper level. “We are still in the implementation process”, says Enno, adding that some 21% of the consignments are processes through eLink. “We are continuously working on the speeding-up of the ground processes.”
The intrinsic qualities of the airport are strengthened by the presence of home carrier KLM, another key element in the overall make-up of Schiphol as it is presented to the global shippers community.  “We have organized seminars on pharma logistics, welcoming some 40 shippers in India. As a result, some of the large ones decided to relocate to Amsterdam. We also talk to hi-tech, fashion and automotive, explaining that our strengths are often more in the processes than in the physical facilities.”

As for the latter, Schiphol still has abundant space. “I think that, especially in the newly developed logistic sites in the wider airport area, we can accommodate up to 3 million tons a year”, says Amsterdam’s forward-thinking Mr. Cargo, Enno Osinga.

Marcel Schoeters

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