Cargo Grows at BRU but Uncertainty Prevails

Cargo traffic at Brussels Airport keeps on growing and the 16.4% rise over the first six months is there to prove it. Yet, the unsolved problem of the Brussels region’s noise regulations has led to a drop of 1.9% during the month of June.

Air Cargo Global pulled out of Brussels to avoid being fined under the noise regulations  -  company courtesy
Air Cargo Global pulled out of Brussels to avoid being fined under the noise regulations - company courtesy

Last month freight volumes at Brussels Airport fell to 42,375 tonnes from 43,187 tonnes in 2015. The latter is not a typing error. Brussels Airport Company has decided not to weigh its figures comparing with 2016, as that year’s performance was distorted by the effects of the attacks of 22 March.

A closer look at the June 2017 volume reveals that the decline is due to both the belly and the full freighter segment. The former has been going down for some time, due to the move of Jet Airways to Amsterdam in 2016. On the other hand, the new service of Brussels Airlines to Mumbai has made up for some of the loss.

The full freighter volume decreased by 0.6%, thanks to DHL Express saving the day. That part of the traffic rose by 11.7%. The other full freighter volume, however, fell sharply by 16.0%.

16 fines sent but minister advocates not to pay
The reason for this was the decision by Yangtze River Express and Air Cargo Global to pull out of Brussels because of the heavy fines imposed by the Brussels region for violating its absurd noise regulations. So far, no fine has been collected, as the Flemish Transport minister Ben Weyts twice invoked a conflict of interests.

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Even after the second invocation had expired on 22 April the Brussels Region had committed itself to a non-collection of the fines, but apparently 16 fines have already been sent. Minister Weyts has appealed to the companies involved not to pay.

As an immediate final solution for the conflict is not within reach, uncertainty reigns, says Geert Keirens, director of the umbrella organisation Air Cargo Belgium. “We fear that more companies will leave if nothing happens.”

Excellent performance during the first half
Only a few days ago the National Bank of Belgium reported that in 2015 in Belgium air transport and airport activities generated € 6 billion in direct and indirect value added (i.e. 1.5 % of Belgian GDP). They employed around 62,500 people in full-time equivalents (FTEs) either directly or indirectly (1.5 % of domestic employment including the self-employed).

Over the first six months of 2017 the cargo volume at Brussels Airport is still on the rise. The 268,316 tonnes handled represent a 16.4% increase over 2016 and 9.5% over 2015. As for 2017 vs 2016, all segments show an upward trend. In the 2017 vs 2015 comparison, only belly cargo has fallen back.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussel

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