Dutch Air Cargo Experts Insist It is Time for Politics to Act - Part 2

The impact of the slot allocation mechanism at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is not understood by the political elite, local cargo experts say. They are not it seems enthusiastic or convinced about the support of the national carrier KLM either.

Paul Parramore, Netherlands Air cargo veteran - courtesy P. Parramore
Paul Parramore, Netherlands Air cargo veteran - courtesy P. Parramore

Q - How do you evaluate the action taken by the slot coordinator CCN?

Ivo Aris: “The CCN is a democratic body, in the sense that decisions are taken by a majority of votes. As cargo companies are a minority within CCN, their interests are voted down all the time. Cargo is thus expelled from AMS. So you can say that even if CCN is a democracy, it is not a rule of law, since in a rule of law minorities are pro-tected. This is even more unpleasant if one realizes that the economic value to ‘The Netherlands Inc.’ generated by air cargo is a fourfold of what the average passenger flight can bring.

The displacement of cargo has never been the intention of the ‘Alders Agreement’ (setting the overall limitation of movements at AMS at 500,000 a year, ms). To keep things short, what is happening at Schiphol today is an unintended and undesired consequence of the present decision making process for slot allocation. A conse-quence that can only be curbed by adjusting this process.”

Paul Parramore: “Too stupid and thoughtless for words. They still have no notion whatsoever of the economic importance of the air cargo industry.”

Sjoerd van Loon: “What is needed is an effective initiative to make all the parties (in-cluding politics) aware of the importance of Schiphol’s cargo position for The Neth-erlands Inc.

The employment of all these parties like forwarders, handlers, warehouse operators, truckers (local distribution), air cargo staff and all the other companies linked to this industry will be jeopardised if the present policy is continued.”

Q - Can the tide still be turned?

Ivo Aris: “In our view it is up to politics to take a decision. The suggestion to base a decision by the typical Dutch way of compromise and collaboration through CCN may look quite charming and justifiable, but –as demonstrated- leads to the gradual displacement of cargo from Amsterdam. In the meantime this is well known with all the players and not interfering is therefore a form of negligence  on the verge of cul-pability.

In this case you could even call it maladministration. As an emergency measure it could be decided to allocate remaining slots per season or even on a monthly base primarily to cargo, to prevent further irreversible damage. This would win us some time to discuss a different and better slot allocation mechanism for the future. A mechanism that would respect the engagements stipulated in the Alders Agree-ment. With a final overall limitation and the protection of the categories, including cargo. Just to make things clear: in this discussion cargo only wants to maintain its present capacity and has no intention to grow at the expense of the passenger ca-pacity. The CCN mechanism on the other hand leads to the loss of precious cargo and a further growth on the passenger side. With the well-known terminal conges-tion that is non-existent in freight.”

Paul Parramore: “I think that it is too late. The idea to sacrifice cargo flights has not popped up just like that. This scheme was designed a long time ago. The national carrier and the Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands (BARIN) must have known. We will have to lobby very ardently and quickly in The Hague and try to get some attention at the ministerial level. The problem is that we do not have a government yet. An additional problem is in the power of KLM, which has no prob-lem whatsoever in downsizing cargo. They hardly have any freighters left. After years of declining cargo activities passenger flights have become much more im-portant to them. Their lobby is much stronger in The Hague than ACN’s.”

Sjoerd van Loon: “The Top Sector Logistics and ACN will have to send a clear signal to the political elite to highlight the disastrous effects of the present policy.”

Sjoerd van Loon, former CEO of GEFCO Forwarding
Sjoerd van Loon, former CEO of GEFCO Forwarding

Q -Can Maastricht offer a viable alternative?

Ivo Aris: “In time Maastricht can be a welcome addition to the Dutch cargo capacity and we support the development. Today it is however a drop on a hot plate and does not solve our problem. The runway is too short for long haul cargo flights. On top of that even in full swing Maastricht will be able to capture only a small fraction of the capacity lost in Amsterdam. Even with Maastricht part of the cargo will move abroad. This will in no way solve the further displacement of cargo at Schiphol.”

Paul Parramore: “Absolutely not. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Maastricht tried to lure Martinair to its airport, together with other cargo carriers. This has not worked, as even then the lobby against runway extension was too strong. This has even got worse, because more people have settled there.”

Sjoerd van Loon: “Hardly, too limited and lacking the necessary infrastructure. In this respect I can also point out the many procedures concerning runway extension.”

Q -What do you expect form the new Dutch government?

Ivo Aris: “Constructive concentration to reach a more effective protection of the posi-tion of cargo at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. To work out the policy of selectivity set out in the coalition in which priority will be given to intercontinental traffic from and to Amsterdam, which includes freight.”

Paul Parramore: “More attention for the economic contribution of air cargo to the economy of the Netherlands. I take a pessimistic view on what that will lead to. ACN, of which KLM is no longer a member, will have to make a lot of noise to get some support in The Hague. And since the power work and the lobbying of the national carrier in The Hague go back to the days of Plesman (KLM’s first CEO, ms), I see little chance of success. Doing nothing is also impossible, so my advice to ACN would be to keep on fighting for your position, otherwise the air cargo industry in the Netherlands will come to an end very quickly.”

Sjoerd van Loon: “With the start of the new government we can only hope for a rele-vant minister or secretary of state who will listen to reason and will study the issue.”

Outgoing Secretary of State calls for solution
Sharon Dijksma, the outgoing Dutch Secretary of State for Infrastructure and Environment, has requested Schiphol Airport to work out a proposition during the next four weeks for the retention of cargo. This issue will be the last initiative Ms Dijksma will be able to take on, as the new Dutch government will be sworn in at the end of this month.

Is it far too late and will the new government take it seriously?

Marcel Schoeters in Brussel

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