Panalpina Strengthens its Pact with Silk Way

The Swiss logistics giant is upping its commercial cooperation with Azerbaijan’s Silk Way West Airlines. This results in a second weekly roundtrip Luxembourg-Baku-Shanghai and back.

Panapina secured additional capacity on Silk Way freighters serving Luxembourg-Baku-Shanghai rotations  /  courtesy Panalpina
Panapina secured additional capacity on Silk Way freighters serving Luxembourg-Baku-Shanghai rotations / courtesy Panalpina

“We are very content with their performance,” states Panalpina’s Corporate Media Relations Manager Sandro Hofer. This is why his firm has decided to increase its ties with the Azerbaijani cargo airline by utilizing additional capacity on flights between Europe and China via Baku at the Caspian Sea. Silk Way replaces Chinese Yangtze River Express that Panalpina used to cooperate with before to transport shipments on this intercontinental route. While the first Silk Way flight, introduced already last year is operated midweek, the new rotation is conducted on weekends.

Two-way connection
Sou Ping Chee, Panalpina’s head of air freight for the APAC region speaks of a “two-way, twice-weekly connection with blocked space in both directions.” “Eastbound we fly mostly temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, where we see further growth potential.” The majority of this cargo flies all the way to Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which is home to new cool chain facilities. “On the way back to Europe via Baku, we carry mostly fast fashion and high-tech products.”
According to Slavey Djahov, Panalpina’s head of Air Freight for the Middle East, Africa and CIS (MEAC) the nose-loading capability of the deployed 747-8 freighters is ideal for outsized oil and gas related cargo. “We deliver equipment from Luxembourg to Azerbaijan for the country’s main oil and gas fields east of Baku in the Caspian Sea,” the manager says.

Commodities are changing
Further, Panalpina points out that its cargo mix into Baku is slowly changing. Most of the cargo that is offloaded in Baku is for the company’s international oil and gas customers, but volumes of technology goods, as well as pharmaceuticals, are growing. “We have observed increased customer demand in these areas,” Djahov notes. “Silk Way not only provides the capacity with modern freighters but is also investing in airport facilities in Baku and thereby contributing to an efficient and secure end-to-end supply chain into Azerbaijan.”

Caspian and Panda Star
Peter Triebel, Panalpina’s regional CEO for the MEAC region, adds: “Baku has benefited from oil and gas revenues and is developing quickly. While oil and gas production and exports remain central to Azerbaijan's economy, increasingly we are witnessing the demand-patterns of a diversifying economy. Baku is in full transformation.”
Panalpina’s services between Luxembourg and Baku, and Baku and Shanghai, are called Caspian Star and Panda Star, respectively.

In addition to this Sandro Hofer points out that on rotations between Luxembourg, Huntsville in Alabama and Mexico, with stops at London Stansted on the way back, Panalpina uses a Boeing 747-8F leased from Atlas Air. A second wet-leased B747-8F which his firm used to operate has meanwhile been returned to owner Atlas in a deal securing Panalpina 200 scheduled charter flights with Atlas Boeing 747-400F equipment between Hong Kong, Huntsville and Viracopos in Brazil. 

Heiner Siegmund

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