The ground handlers’ Basel freight terminal, comprising 7,500 square meters, has become an IATA-certified Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV). Kind of a knightly accolade, ensuring the company’s customers highest product quality and safety standards. Even more Swissport managed cargo facilities are standing on the handler’s CEIV to-do list, announces Chief Commercial Officer Nils Pries Knudsen.
IATA’s Global Head of Cargo Glyn Hughes started his short address to the 30 attendees at a recent ceremony with a big compliment: Swissport’s warehouse at Basel airport “is a fantastic facility,
setting new standards,” exclaimed the official while handing over the CEIV pharma certification to Nils Knudsen of Swissport. Thanks to the building’s direct access to the tarmac, temperature
critical shipments need no more than two minutes to get from the cool rooms to the freighters parked on the apron. “That must be world record!” applauded Mr Hughes, recognizing the strenuous
efforts taken by Swissport and the company’s major investments to meet the high CEIV standards stipulated by his organization.
Roughly one third of the cargo terminal is managed by Swissport, with DHL Express being another large tenant. The entire Swissport-rented floorspace is temperature regulated, with the air condition varying from 15 to 20 degrees Centigrade. In addition, a number of separate cool rooms ensure pharmaceuticals and other climate sensitive goods a cool environment ranging between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. This is rounded off by a special freezer that can be scaled down to Arctic -20° Celsius if needed by vaccines or alike products.
Although being only three years in operation, the facility has become one of the world’s largest hubs for pharmaceuticals and life-science products, states CEO Mathias Suhr of EuroAirport Basel - Mulhouse - Freiburg, as the airport bordering Switzerland and France is officially named.
BSL hopes to attract more volumes from German shippers
Last year, which were “terrific twelve months for our company,” (Knudsen), roughly 4,000 tons of pharma shipments were handled by Swissport at Basel.
As to the export-import ratio the ground handler’s Senior VP Gion-Pieder Pfister said that about two thirds of the total volume are outgoing shipments, while the difference are incoming goods, mostly coming from the producer’s suppliers. Another noteworthy figure delivered by him is that 95 percent of all exports are secured when arriving at the freight terminal. “We would love to see more shipments coming from the neighboring and highly industrialized southwestern parts of Germany,” stated Station Manager Cargo Andreas Behnke of Swissport Basel. “Feeding these items from their relatively close-by production plants to our airport makes much more sense than trucking them all the way to 400 kilometers distant Frankfurt, as is mostly still done today.”
A habit hard to overcome as evidenced day after day by the physical freight flows.
Still room for improvement
But BSL itself could do better since “only about 50 percent of all shipments arriving here are consolidated and trucked afterwards to other airports, be it Frankfurt, Luxembourg or Paris,” regrets Basel head of communication Vivienne Gaskell. Out of the 12,000 tons delivered by producer Novartis last year, only 30 percent left BSL on board an aircraft. “Most of our volumes are trucked to Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam Schiphol or Luxembourg Findel due to the favorable air connectivity these hubs offer the market,” states the pharma giant’s Global Head Logistics Experts, Marc Schmid.
Push and pull effects benefit BSL
Although there is still room for traffic improvement, Basel has developed into Switzerland’s number one gateway for pharma products and express items. “80 percent of all time sensitive shipments coming from Swiss companies or producers located in the southeast of France are processed here,” emphasizes Madame Gaskell.
Basel is a vivid example for traffic effects provoked by pull and push factors. Roche, Novartis and other local pharma producers act as permanent pushers, eager to get their products to the global markets as fast and secure as can be. It’s them that are demanding transport capacity and tailored ground handling services. Conversely, this initiates constant pull effects, upping traffic figures, triggering investments in ground infrastructure, creating jobs.
QR Cargo is leader of the pack
This development is illustrated by Qatar Cargo, Korean Cargo, MNG Airlines, Turkish Cargo and some other carriers that operate freighters to and from Basel, triggered mainly by the local pharma giants.
Coming from behind, QR Cargo has meanwhile taken the pole at BSL, operating four freighter flights per week to the carrier’s Doha hub. Speaking about their further commitment, QR Cargo’s VP Cargo Europe Robertino Francisco Veltmann indicated to CargoForwarder Global that more freighter operations are to come, “before this year is over."
Cargo handling contributes one fifth to Swissport’s revenues
This was music to the ears of Swissport’s Nils Knudsen. “Qatar Cargo has become our largest ground handling customer in Europe, followed by Cargolux.” On a global scale it is United Airlines Cargo, he says.
Mr Knudsen confirms that more cargo stations will be CEIV certified in order to build a global network, ensuring pharma shippers and forwarders the same handling quality and safety standards no matter where they are located. Currently, six Swissport stations are CEIV certified: Brussels, Amsterdam, Madrid, Miami, Frankfurt and since last Monday also Basel.
In total, cargo handling contributes 20 percent to Swissport’s annual sales, while the pax business accounts for the lion’s share of almost 80 percent.