After years of incessant innovation, Brussels Airport is now concentrating on the backstage machinery to keep the system up and running. Real estate upgrading, the accommodation of ground handler dnata and portfolio differentiation are very demanding points of attention, says Head of Cargo & Logistics Steven Polmans.
“This is not our sexiest year”, Mr Polmans admits. “You cannot introduce something new every year. Besides, the real estate projects – some 60,000 m² of new facilities- are in full
implementation. All these projects take time.”
Not included in this figure is the complete renovation of the 30,000 m² Swissport facility. Brussels Airport Company is also preparing for the arrival of dnata, which will enter the airside ground handling market as a third player during the last quarter of this year. Mr Polmans does not yet want to reveal the exact location, only stating that “we have room for them.”
He is convinced that the arrival of a third airside handler will benefit the entire cargo community, including warehouse handlers such as WFS, who is building a brand new 15,000 m² airside facility in the new development zone Brucargo West.
Further product development
BRUcloud, the airport’s cargo communication system is being rolled out with great success and lot of working applications and this too, is something that takes a lot of time and investment, he adds.
Spurred by the success of its pharma logistics business, Brussels Airport also wants to strengthen its international position in other products, such as live animals, perishables and e-commerce.
Economy Plus for e-commerce
The latter is a title that covers many subjects, he points out. “We are not directly interested in fulfilment centres, which fits better the - for example - regional development vision favoured by the region of Wallonia. Fulfilment centres need more than just an airport to supply their stocks. What BRU is focussing on, is accommodating players in the ‘grey zone’ between postal services and integrators. “Let’s say offering a cheaper integrator-like service but adding a better quality than the postal services. We like to compare this to the ‘Economy Plus’ option in the passenger business, for people that consider Business Class too expensive, but who are on the other hand not satisfied with the plain Economy service.”
According to Mr Polmans a lot of (airline) companies are looking in this particular segment of flying parcels between two cities. “We are developing this strategy quite intensively. Internationally, this is the fastest growing segment.”
Upgrading the hardware
So, to get back to the present state of affairs at Brussels Airport, what the cargo department is doing is ‘reducing the visibility of harvesting and concentrating on maintaining the fields instead’. We do not want to be known as the airport that triggers off a lot of projects but is not able to deliver. We do not want to get ahead of ourselves.”
“We are going through an upgrade of our hardware. We have been going very fast. The same goes for the freight alliance Air Cargo Belgium, which has grown much faster than originally projected.
Huge potential for South-American market
The introduction of a second weekly all cargo service from BRU to São Paulo and Santiago by LATAM Cargo has finally provided the airport with a direct connection to South-America. “It has already doubled our South American volume,” says Mr Polmans. “These volumes were trucked away to other airports and a lot of them still are. So there is still a huge potential.”
Another project is a closer collaboration within the Belgian logistics community, he concludes. “As an airport we have established close links with the customs authorities and the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain.” This accounts for the Port of Antwerp as well, he adds. “We are both involved in imports and exports, dealing with the same customers and challenges. Therefore, it is logical we work together on the same solutions.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels