German Politics Torpedoes Cargo Development, Experts Criticize

During a recent Leipzig-held meeting of high ranking reps of the German air freight industry panelists touched on a sore point: the constraints and bureaucratic hurdles set by German policy makers to the detriment of cargo players. Speakers demanded a u-turn in governmental law practices urging the public actors to stop putting up stumbling blocks at the doorsteps of the cargo industry at once.

Leipzig panelists (l >r): Michael Hoppe, BARIG  /  Markus Otto, EAT/DHL  /  Peter Gerber, LH Cargo  /  Matthias von Randow, BDL  /  Markus Radmacher, BDI  /  Markus Kopp, MFAG  /  Henning Dieter, DSLV  /  Dirk Schusdziara, Fraport
Leipzig panelists (l >r): Michael Hoppe, BARIG / Markus Otto, EAT/DHL / Peter Gerber, LH Cargo / Matthias von Randow, BDL / Markus Radmacher, BDI / Markus Kopp, MFAG / Henning Dieter, DSLV / Dirk Schusdziara, Fraport

Without air freight the German economy would come to a sudden standstill. “Our exporting firms rely on fast and efficient air transports of tools, spare parts, machinery and components to remain globally competitive,” declared Markus Radmacher of the Federation of German Industries – BDI at the Leipzig meeting. He underpinned his statement by presenting impressive figures: “Our member firms account for an accumulated annual turnover of €212 billion, provide jobs for 1 million-plus people and export 77 percent of their products mostly to clients located overseas.”

And the policy makers?
Instead of supporting the needs of this and other key economic sectors like the pharmaceutical industry, automotive or plant engineering to foster their international competitiveness the majority of the Berlin’s rulers prefer to either ignore their demands for state-of-the-art supply chains or – much worse – hinder them indirectly from defending their global market position.
Indirectly, because night flight bans at German airports imposed by politicians, special taxes payable by airlines serving any of the country’s airports or complicated bureaucratic processes have devastating impacts on the entire transport industry – much to the detriment of their key clients, the trading companies.
Home-made hurdles
“Tell anybody in Far East that Europe’s leading cargo airport is shut down at night for six long hours. I bet, nobody would believe you.” A clear assessment delivered by Chairman Michael Hoppe of BARIG, the Board of Airline Representatives in Germany comprising of 100 members. He went on to say: “In their thinking such a restriction is simply impossible.”
Night flight curfews like the closure of big Rhine-Main airport between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the turning off the lights at Munich Airport, the curfews imposed on Berlin’s upcoming BER at night times (should it ever go online) or Dusseldorf’s severe operational restrictions are insurmountable obstacles airlines are unable to overcome.

Migrating business
The feeling of unease and not being understood by politicians was put in a nutshell by Dieter Henning of DHL Global Forwarding who heads the expert committee air freight within the German Forwarding Association – DSLV. Dieter said: “Frankfurt offers many advantages, but as forwarding agents we have to keep being very flexible to not risking losing any biz.” He added to this: “Since the political framework falls well behind the optimum, large volumes of shipments produced by German exporters tend to increasingly migrate to cargo friendly airports like Liege, Brussels or Amsterdam, circumventing Frankfurt.”
If this wasn’t enough there is also the restrictive interpretation of security rules by the German regulator. It was consent that there is no compromise in security but checks and controls are done much faster in Amsterdam by local security personnel, for instance, compared to slower practices at any German airport. The security scheme in cargo applies to all member states of the EU but some follow the rules set up by Brussels very meticulously while others do it in a more generous way, illustrated one of the participant the practical daily differences at airports like FRA, LUX or AMS, to name just three.

Hesitant admission of ad-hoc charters
Another alarming signal illustrated by experts at the Leipzig event: most charter carriers try to avoid landing at a German airport due to high costs and limited flexibility by the authorities in charge for admitting or rejecting a flight request. According to Leipzig-Halle Airport’s helmsman Markus Kopp, German regulatory bodies need 2 to 3 days minimum to approve (or deny) an ad-hoc charter flight, whereas the Dutch administrator gives its okay within no more than 24 hours. No wonder that most ad-hoc charters land elsewhere, but not at any of the German airports.
This leads to the bizarre situation that goods addressed to German customers land at Belgian or Dutch airports located in close neighborhood to the German border, like Maastricht or Liege, from where they are trucked to their final destination. This way, additional greenhouse gas emissions are produced and highways burdened with more traffic.

Striking cost differences
Last but not least BARIG’s Michael Hoppe delivered a striking example of cost differences between German Airports and those located at any of the Benelux countries. He cited the market analysis of an Asian cargo carrier interested in starting line-haul flights with a Boeing 747-400F to an airport located in Central Europe. The result is sobering for any of the German airports, says Hoppe. “The airline would have to pay 40 percent in excess in comparison to airports across the border.”
It’s not a big secret, which decision the carrier has taken.

Heiner Siegmund

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