The Amsterdam cargo industry is keeping its fingers crossed for the government’s approval to grant unused spare slots primarily to freighter operators. Sharon Dijksma, the secretary of state responsible for Infrastructure and Environment, supports the proposal.
This year the umbrella organisation Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN) did not have to look very far for a topic for discussion at the public part of its annual General Assembly on 26 September. Slot
scarcity is threatening to force out about 25% of the Schiphol volume.
ACN’s new president Ivo Aris referred to the slot scarcity as a disruptor the industry has never had to cope with before. “This is a problem that will not go away,” he said. “Over the last few years we as an industry have been too much inward-looking, concentrating on efficiency and growth.”
Legal consultant Frans Vreede added that the political world has also never realised the fantastic contribution made by cargo to Schiphol’s growth. So, Schiphol is the victim of its own success. Together with the Port of Rotterdam, it plays a vital part in the on-going promotion of the Netherlands as a logistics hub.
Lay-offs at Menzies
However, the problems are mounting shown by the migration of freight carriers. One of the airlines that was unable to have its slots re-allocated is AirBridgeCargo, which is moving some of their flights to Hahn. As a result, its handler Menzies World Cargo has announced the lay-off of 100 jobs. Other carriers affected are Cargolux, Emirates SkyCargo, Kalitta Air, Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways.
To at least- keep the existing number of slots for the coming winter season starting on 1 November, the air cargo community has appealed for a local rule, that would give non-used slots out of the ‘spare pool’ preferably to freighter operators and long-haul carriers. Secretary of state Sharon Dijksma appears to support the idea, but she wants to check this procedure against European legislation.
Flowers and plants
Jeroen de Veth, who leads the business unit Transportation within the Dutch shippers’ organisation Evofenedex, said that a survey had shown that –together with its tax climate and staff quality- the logistic qualities were one of the reasons foreign companies opt for the Netherlands. “Even right now in the middle off the Brexit discussions we have been receiving signals from UK-based companies considering to move to the Netherlands, and now this!”
Cargo flows will always find their way, Jeroen warned. “There are enough airports in the neighbourhood. This may very well turn into a problem for the Dutch economy. Logistics is more than moving boxes. The question is: what kind of economy do you want to be? Agro, hi-tech, chemicals, they all go by air. These are precisely the industries that we want to expand in this country.”
The import and redistribution of flowers and plants bring AMS a volume of 125,000 tonnes a year, about ¼ of its total, said Bernard Piet of Royal Flora Holland. “The import value is some 800 million euro.”
F35 logistics project implies pivotal role for AMS
Schiphol also plays a pivotal role in the F35 Industrial Lead project, which is supposed to bring the heart of the European logistics for the new F35 fighter jets to the Netherlands. From a central warehouse at the air force base at Woensdrecht, all spare parts for the 3 F-35 models and their 2 engines would be distributed all over Europe. “In this project, Schiphol plays a pivotal role”, said the project’s leader René de Koning, adding that ‘Woensdrecht is close to the Belgian border.”
Jacques Heeremans of IAS and ACN vice-president, explained the mechanism of slot allocation. “Both IATA and the EU say the slots that have been allocated for the same day with the same flight number and destination must be used in order to get re-allocated. But you have to apply for them 9 months in advance and nobody knows what the market will be like three quarters of a year later.”
Contrary to other European countries, the Netherland have no alternative for AMS when it comes to air cargo services, said Jacques. “In the UK you have Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, in France there’s CDG and has Vatry, in Belgium Brussels and Liege. We would be forced to move some operations to Maastricht, but its runway is too short for fully load long-haul freighters. Over the last few weeks we have been receiving some calls from friendly airports, which cannot wait to take over what we are losing.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels