On a rating scale - ranging from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) - Hamburg’s new air freight terminal achieved a score of 8.5 points by one of its main users Swissport Cargo Services. The €50 million facility, located within the airport perimeter opened up its gates on 30 May 2016. Since then, the tonnage is climbing remarkably.
The air freight business at Hamburg’s “Helmut Schmidt” Airport, as the location is officially named since beginning of last November, is thriving. This is shown by the increase of 22 percent
since 1 January 2016. A remarkable upswing in tonnage after many dire years. Interestingly, both segments the flown and trucked consignments grew disproportionately high.
Investment is paying off
This, much to the enjoyment of the airport management and the cargo community in general. Despite the short time span since “Hamburg Airport Cargo Center” (HHCA) is online “we can already conclude that the investment paid off,” states Managing Director Alexander Laukenmann of HAM Airport. This, primarily as a result of thriving throughput, documented in monthly statistics but also because of the building’s role as new flagship for the freight business in Hamburg and the entire northern German region, including parts of neighbouring Denmark.
Johan Schryver, Chairman of Hamburg’s Association of Forwarding Agents agrees with this interpretation by emphasizing that the state-of-the-art facility provides an ideal platform to catapult the regional cargo business from the third into the first league.
Cherry on the cake
“This landmark facility well demonstrates that we as an airport rank the cargo issue very high,” airport manager Laukenmann states. “Our HHCA could well be the icing on the cake for new passenger airlines that consider adding Hamburg to their network. This, because their route calculations are seldom based on the number of travelers and air fares only, except for low cost carriers but also on revenues generated through freight transport in the holds of their jetliners.”
Another aspect pleases Laukenmann: “98 percent of the terminal floor and the adjoining offices, totaling 26,000 square meters are rented by customers.” An extraordinary figure, securing HAM the refinancing of the facility in accordance with the business plan.
Participant from day one
One of his major clients confirms this assessment: ground handling giant Swissport Cargo Services that manages 2,800 square meters in the new terminal. Swissport engaged very early in the construction process of the facility by becoming part of a seven member comprising steering group consisting of ground handlers, airlines and forwarders, eager to drive the project forward.
The efforts have been worthwhile because when constructing the facility, “we tried our utmost to cater to the needs and particular requirements of our future tenants,” notes Alexander Mueller, Department Director Cargo at HAM. Benefits however that cost them an increase in rents between 10 to 15 percent per sqm compared to the former freight terminal.
It’s hardly surprising that this cost increase is not really applauded by the users, but they are fair enough to weigh off the expenditures against the benefits gained.
Advantages are outweighing disadvantages
Swissport’s Station Manager Markus Eberhardt refers to the result as “very gratifying” and continues “since we moved into the new terminal we can offer our clients different rooms that are under our sole control for storing or processing dangerous goods, temperature critical items, valuables or other special products. Within the former freight building dated back to the 1960s, the handling community had to share a common space for accommodating such goods.”
Also the rectangular layout of the facility Markus adds “simplifies our daily work tremendously in contrast to the old building that resembled a labyrinth.” His list of plus points includes security control, X-ray processes, simplified deliveries or pickups of shipments by truckers and the accelerated throughput of consignments. “The rooms are bright and clear and provide a better overview, measured against the former cargo building,” he concludes.
“The sum of these factors enable our ground handling clients a considerably higher utilization and thus productivity per square meter,” reasons HAM’s Alexander Mueller.
Dirk Schmitt, CEO Germany & Austria Swissport Cargo Services adds that all processes taking place within the station are monitored according to Cargo iQ quality standards. “This gives us a constant overview of the performance.” Asked about assessing the quality he says, “it’s very high.” Dirk, who came from Luxair Cargo before joining Swissport a year ago further states that his company’s HAM station was the first branch out of nine in Germany that was certified according to IATA’s Safety Audit of Ground Operations (ISAGO). Key targets of the program are safer ground operations, fewer accidents and continuous enhancements of the handling quality.
According to Schmitt, the shipment profiles handled by Swissport in HAM differ substantially from those processed in Berlin. “In Hamburg, smaller packages containing high value products dominate, like components of the aerospace industry or maritime parts, whereas in Berlin we handle predominantly larger standard products.”
Bucking the trend
Swissport HAM expects to handle 25,000 tons of air freight this year, with a 50/50 ratio imports/exports. A more than satisfying result after losing Lufthansa Cargo as a main client to competitor Wisag, the Swissport managers emphasize.
Their company’s strategy differs from that of most rivals. Instead of bundling goods at main cargo hubs like Frankfurt or Vienna for consolidating them there, “our aim is to decentralize the processes by building pallets and containers in regional areas. This speeds up processes considerably because after the consolidated shipments arrive at a hub and given green light by customs authorities, they can be loaded aboard the booked flight without further jams or delays,” states Dirk Schmitt.
This is, he says, also part of his company’s pleasing performance, daily confirmed by Cargo iQ and ISAGO.