The modernisation of the IATA European Cargo Program to roll it out globally was one of the most recent topics on the table of the FIATA World Congress in Istanbul, said Jean-Claude Delen, president of the Belgian Airfreight Institute (BAFI) at the association’s biennial Gala Dinner on Saturday 18 October. In what turned out to be his farewell address, Delen also elaborated on the state of affairs of the air cargo industry and the Brussels-based air cargo community.
Jean-Claude Delen has been a well-respected figurehead in the international logistics industry for 50 years. He started as a junior staff member at Air Express International (AEI) and, after take-overs by Danzas and Deutsche Post, he rounded off his career as CEO Benelux & France of DHL Global Forwarding in Brussels. As he is retiring from this position he will also step down as BAFI president. He has also been a very active board member of FIATA, of which he was President from 2009 to 2011 and has continued his involvement as the association’s treasurer.
Istanbul is the real competitor to the Gulf carriers
The IATA ECP is to be developed as an IATA/FIATA global cargo programme which would transform the forwarders from agents to principals, and thus into a new level of relationship as principals to principals, he said. “We are very close to a final agreement though we still have to do some due diligence in terms of competition rules.”
Apart from addressing the most urgent challenges within the freight forwarding industry, FIATA also demonstrated that it is not immune to other issues the world community has to face, as 110,000 USD were collected to support Médecins sans Frontières to support its efforts in combating the Ebola crisis.
Having just come back from Istanbul, Delen expressed his appreciation for the way Turkish Airlines has turned Istanbul Airport into a fabulous transit hub. “They are the only one in my view with such a strategic long-term vision investing in modern planes and cargo facilities and they are in my opinion the real competition to the Gulf carriers.”
As for Brussels Airport, Delen still remembers the days that, at the start of his career, there was no such thing as Brucargo. “Our warehouse was located in the basement of Sabena Catering and was as huge as 65 m². These were the days when the freight forwarders had to force their way through as customers. Now we can observe the attraction of Brussels for long-haul carriers calling with wide-body aircraft with belly capacity of over 20 tonnes. The impact on cargo-only capacity will be tremendous, but let’s not forget that we need these full cargo aircraft as some of the cargo requires it.”
Jean-Claude Delen firmly believes in the cargo community concept. “It has to be remembered by the Brussels Airport Company that the total logistic chain, the ‘community’, has to prevail versus a few. All, handlers, airlines, customs and forwarders must work together in order to present to our mutual customers the highest level of service, cost-efficient and reliable. E-Commerce must be promoted all the way from the shipper down to the consignee. We should all steer a paperless operation, as all the information needed is stored in one way or another in our computers, so let’s use it for the best. We need to modernise our industry. But even then, all the changes must be made with respect to our people, not only in words, but also in acts. They are still the number one assets of our organisations.”
The parting president wanted this message to be handed down to BAFI itself. “All stakeholders at Brussels Airport need to work together. We need strong speaking partners, strong ACMAB (Association of Cargo Managers Association in Belgium, i.e. the airlines, MS), strong handlers in committees with dedicated and positive individuals to make the chain even stronger. I was the one who started the ‘100 minutes’ concept to facilitate the operations and improve velocity and we have proved the progress, but we will not have achieved the progress until this community is regarded as the best operating team in terms of cargo airport.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels