ESC Shippers Demand Transparency in Air Freight

Transparency on their consignments is what the European shippers demand form their air cargo providers, says policy manager Rogier Spoel of the European Shippers’ Council in Brussels. The linear set-up of the air cargo chain is not very helpful in this respect, he claims.

Rogier Spoel, policy manager evofenedex and European Shippers’ Council  -  photo: ms
Rogier Spoel, policy manager evofenedex and European Shippers’ Council - photo: ms

Like his predecessor Joost van Doesburg Rogier also works for the Dutch shippers’ organisation EVO, which merged with Fenedex, the Dutch exporter’s organisation on 1 January 2017. Rogier, a political scientist by training, joined evofenedex in January 2016 as an advisor on air and rail cargo. Like Joost, he was asked to expand his services to ESC. Since last March he combines air and sea, which have more in common, he admits.
As for air cargo, the shippers wish to know where their consignments are and under what conditions they are being forwarded, he says. “Tracking & tracing plays an important part in this process. It allows us to improve our planning. The forwarders often prefer consolidation and the breaking up of consignments to speed up their business, but the shippers do not know what is happening with their goods. Mind me, we have no objections to the forwarders doing this, but we do like to be kept informed.”
The bigger picture is in the combination of improved planning and the role of European Distribution Centres (EDC’s), which can lead to a reduction of m² used and thus to cost reduction, says Rogier. “We are not talking about the invoice here. Shippers are more interested in the eventual yield of the entire process. So the question is: in what way can you organise the process more easily?”

Freighter operations should back up belly cargo
Rates are going up again, triggered by a growth rate of 5 to 8%. The load factor is improving as well. The new passenger aircraft appear to be more cargo friendly than their predecessors, but for a shipper belly capacity seems to be something of a second rank service, Rogier admits. “Sometimes we are concerned about the conditions of transport. Freighters have better cooling and there is, of course, the problem of dangerous goods.”
The legacy carriers have focussed on belly freight mainly, but according to Rogier this operation should be backed up by freighters. Being Dutch he is concerned about the possibility that AMS may be losing an important number of freighter slots. Within the slot allocation system airlines can lose historic rights to slots due to repeated and intentional slot misuse, like delays. Rogier admits that the shippers too may be the source for delays, by imposing last minute changes etc.

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Hahn may step in
As for the use of secondary airports eager to accommodate traffic shifting away from AMS, he thinks that LGG has better chances than MAA, which will have to invest in customs and phytosanitary infrastructure. "BRU has some spare capacity, but there’s still this noise regulation problem.”
Therefore, Hahn has the better chances, he thinks. “They’re into this conglomerate owned by Chinese interests including companies that may lose slots at AMS. On the other hand the cargo oriented airports do not have the freighter and belly combination.”
Shippers do not talk directly to ground handling companies, which have a great responsibility when the condition of the cargo is concerned. “The air cargo industry is a very linear system and over the last few years as ESC we have been trying to take these walls down to a certain extent. Sometimes the handler has done something the shipper does not want done and about which the forwarder does not know anything.”

Forwarders should offer E-Freight supporting instruments
As for the role of the shipper in the E-Freight process, including the E-AWB, Rogier admits that the shippers do not really have the incentive to do this. “It is up to the forwarder to offer instruments to support this process”, he says.
“The problem is that all the stakeholders are still stuck within their own systems and culture. As our own is so heterogeneous it is quite difficult for us to draw an unambiguous line. If you want to accommodate a discussion in this respect, you have to launch a digital flow, by building a digital backbone.” In this the source of the data should be the guiding principle. It will be allowed to copy the data, but not to change them.” Rogier sees some opportunities in systems such as TWILL, a digital (ocean) freight forwarder set up by Damco enabling online management and monitoring of shipments.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

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