Brussels Cargo Community Considering Umbrella Organisation

The Brussels private cargo community would like to set up an umbrella organisation that would facilitate dealings with government departments and third parties. This initiative is actively supported by the Brussels Airport Company.

Eddy Van Craen, director Belgian Airfreight Institute  /  source: ms
Eddy Van Craen, director Belgian Airfreight Institute / source: ms

The support is manifested by the Airport’s willingness to accommodate a central secretariat, says Eddy Van Craen, director of the Belgian Airfreight Institute. BAFI is the professional organisation of the air cargo forwarders at Zaventem airport.
In 2007 a first attempt was made to launch an organisation to bring together all the participants in the cargo process. The so-called Stakeholder Committee for Airport Logistics and Economy – aka SCALE – was an initiative of BAFI, the Air Cargo Managers’ Association of Belgium ‘ACMAB), representing the airlines, the Belgian Courier Association (BCA), the Brussels Airport Company (TBAC), the cargo handlers contact group CCAB, the Organisation of Traffic Managers (OTM, shippers) and the Chamber of Commerce Halle-Vilvoorde (Voka).

SCALE was a failed attempt
Hopes were high that SCALE would encourage the respective stakeholders to go beyond their company-focussed interests and reinforce their role within the supply chain. The initiative never really caught on as it lacked the necessary cohesion as well as the support of the airport authority. But these were the days before the cargo department was founded.
“Today the atmosphere has improved a lot,” says Eddy. “Thanks to the dedicated cargo team of Brussels Airport, led by Steven Polmans, we have a lot more confidence in the eventual success of an organisation.” The odd thing is that BAFI, whose foundation dates back to the 1970’ies, was originally set up as an umbrella organisation. “Hence the ‘institute,” states Eddy.

Joining forces can bear fruit
The recent success of the positioning of Brussels Airport as a preferred pharma logistics gateway has proven that a closer collaboration between the stakeholders can really bear fruit. Also in the pipeline is the ‘BRUcargo, secured gateway’ programme, consisting of 11 projects focussing on an increased perception of quality and status of the BRUcargo site, increased security and safety and an operational improvement as a gateway. After the completion of the programme, BRUcargo should be able to integrate security measures into a swift supply chain handling process, so that eventually it could be given a site-wide status as an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO).
The programme was evaluated and designed through a study presented by the Flemish Institute of Logistics (VIL), which noted specifically that –for this concept to work properly – it is imperative to have a professionally-run umbrella organisation. “A strong organisation supported by all the parties involved in the BRUcargo processes, would strengthen our negotiating position towards the authorities,” says Eddy Van Craen.

Customs problems
Amongst the latter is the customs authority, which has been going through a huge reshuffling operation over the last few years. The BRUcargo customs office is now a subsidiary of the regional office at Leuven. “Officers familiar with the operations here have been reposted to other functions and have been replaced by newcomers who do not know ‘our ways of life’”, Eddy complains. “They are still too much committed to the 9-to-5 (or rather 4:45) mentality. Having an umbrella organisation would help us a great deal to overcome this.”
Within the organisation a seat would be reserved for the Cargo Training Centre (CTC), which offers IATA and FIATA endorsed training to the BRUcargo community. Topping CTC’s priority list is its aim to be recognised by the Belgian aviation authority as a validation centre for regulated agents and known consignors.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

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