CHEP Aerospace – Keeping Tabs on Almost 80,000 ULDs

Are the world’s airlines looking more closely at outsourcing all their Unit Load Devices (ULDs) to independent container handlers?
It certainly looks like that when one considers what CHEP Aerospace, who term themselves as the largest independent ULD repair and rental company, are achieving in what’s become a very lucrative business over the past years.

Doesn’t want to simply sit back and rest on the achievements – CHEP’s President Ludwig Bertsch  /  company courtesy
Doesn’t want to simply sit back and rest on the achievements – CHEP’s President Ludwig Bertsch / company courtesy

CargoForwarder Global got a firsthand insight into what is behind this successful company as well as a few of their plans for the future.
Fact is - that many airlines have recognized that keeping tabs on their own passenger and cargo containers has proven to be a costly and nerve racking business which costs more than they can afford as well as eating up a considerable amount of manpower.

That’s where CHEP Aerospace and other companies who have specialized in supplying, tracking and tracing as well as repair of this equipment step in!
The market is seemingly huge as it’s estimated that so far still 85% of the world carrier ULD’s are still “insourced.”

It looks and sounds simple!
Give the carriers the ULD‘s they want, look at where they are floating around the world, keep track of them and repair them whenever necessary.
Well – there‘s much more to this business than that. It might have well been almost as simple as that ten to fifteen years ago, but today‘s ULD management has grown into a complex industry which offers the world‘s airlines a total package, which if they want to save on cost, they would be simply crazy to refuse.

CHEP‘s origins go back to Swissair days
That‘s why they consider themselves today as the world‘s largest independent operator in this area. The company in its present form was founded in 2010 with the acquisition of Unitpool whose origin goes back to the Swissair days and which before being integrated into CHEP was owned by Swissport.
Ludwig Bertsch, President of CHEP Aerospace is notably proud of the fact that his company is in his words “the owner of the world‘s largest network of ULD repair stations with 29 own repair shops and a further 21 run by subcontractors.”
CHEP Aerospace is a 100% daughter of the Australian Brambles Group, which in turn is a supply chain logistics company operating in more than 50 countries mainly through its daughter companies, CHEP and IFCO. They also own businesses which serve the automotive and aviation refining services.
Therefore, one can assume that financing and purchase of ULDs and aircraft pallets and galleys for CHEP is not really much of an issue.


Gone are the days of just monitoring the whereabouts of pallets.
CHEP‘s list of customers is impressive and includes carriers such as Air Canada and Cathay Pacific, the latter which was won recently is said to be the biggest ULD outsourcing deal in the industry.
According to company information CHEP manages almost 80,000 own ULDs.
Mr Bertsch states that the business has grown on average by 40% on an annual basis during the past four years and its own stock of 80,000 ULD‘s, listed under IATA code R7, is the largest single fleet in the industry. He further notes that with Cargolux, Cathay Pacific and AirBridge Cargo as pool customers, his enterprise has more than 45,000 cargo pallets in the pool.
One of the further benefits to his firm’s clients, he  says, is that “we at CHEP believe strongly in the pooling of equipment amongst our carrier clients.” This he claims is well accepted by their customers and saves costs all round.

CHEP’s GPRS tracking device for Unit Load Devices, here seen at a container
CHEP’s GPRS tracking device for Unit Load Devices, here seen at a container

Another deciding factor for success is CHEP’s 24/7 operation he states. “With this we offer a constant presence worldwide for our clients” and this is possible through having a large network of field based staff and a global operations centre situated in Bangkok which boats a staff of 84.

It’s not just the supply and monitoring aircraft pallets and ULDs.
CHEP has invested heavily in the past years in also setting up on site ULD repair shops for its customers as well as for passenger aircraft galley cart maintenance.
On top of this they have come up with various new innovative ideas on how customers can further save money.
Two of these examples are their introduction of a field trial of a so called “energy harvesting tracking solution onboard aircraft” for containers. This simply means that customers could, once it‘s in full operation, use CHEP’s ULDs as a means of keeping track of their cargo shipments throughout the world.
The second one which was launched in early 2014 is the ULD management App, named “Focus.”
CHEP claims that this simplifies several ULD related processes which are currently mainly paper based and is designed to save time and money for carriers, ground handlers and freight forwarders alike.

Two new clients just stepped on board
Singapore Airlines (SQ) Cargo signed up with CHEP in late September with a global ULD maintenance and repair agreement. The exclusive initial agreement runs for five years.
SQ owns up to 16,000 containers and the agreement also includes repairs for Scoot, a Singapore Airlines low cost subsidiary which operates medium and long haul flights. The repairs will be carried out by CHEP’s repair shops throughout Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.
TAP Portugal and CHEP announced today that they have signed a four year agreement together for the supply and management of ULD’s for the Portuguese national carrier.
The agreement means that CHEP will add TAP’s 3.500 ULD’s into its own pool and more interestingly, that they (CHEP) will transition the carrier’s present aluminum stock of containers into lightweight units within the first months of the agreement.
Both claim that this move will enable TAP Portugal to save €2.5 million on fuel costs and reduce carbon emission by 11,000 tons throughout the initial contract period.

It seems that the 80,000 ULD mark will have been surpassed by the end of this year.
Ludwig Bertsch is proud of the progress made by the CHEP team during the past years, but does not hesitate to add “we are constantly looking for other means of enhancing our product offering to our present and future clients and we cannot afford to sit back and rest on our laurels. We are fully convinced that in time, a large amount of the remaining 85% of insourced ULDs will follow this track.”

A lot of work still to be done.

John Mc Donagh

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