There are a number of aviation related conferences held each year, but very few which deal with the needs and challenges of the air cargo industry as a whole. One of the exceptions to this is the annual Air Cargo Handling (ACH) conference which celebrated its 10th anniversary at this year’s event which was held at Brussels Airport from September 25 - 27.
Dedicated to air cargo
ACH under the guidance of Parveen Raja, publisher of UK based Eva International Media, has during the past decade grown the event into what this year’s ACH Chairman, Olivier Bijaoui, termed as “the one and only event dedicated to our cargo handling industry.”
It was an interesting three days where many from the air cargo related industries came together and looked at and tried to bring up solutions on how best to tackle the challenges ahead. Chris Notter, Chief Ground Handling officer at Saudia Airlines Cargo acted again as chief moderator, something which he has gladly done for the past years. Chris managed to get an interesting and varied group together for the panel discussions and the various presentations reaching from subjects such as The Air Cargo Industry - A Decade on to E-commerce and The Impact on Air Cargo.
It was gratifying to see that there were many younger generation air cargo specialists on hand and the presentations from Air Cargo Belgium (ACB), Sheremetyevo Moscow Cargo for example were given by young, not maybe so experienced, but fully dedicated upcoming air cargo management potential. ACB has been instrumental in getting the various Belgian companies related to air cargo movement under one roof and having an open dialogue on how to streamline an industry which some say tends to go more backwards than forwards these days.
e-commerce, transparency in the supply chain and future infrastructure
It would take pages to comment on all subjects tackled but the above three issues which were the subject of discussion on individual panels, highlight three issues which tie in together if the air cargo industry is to realise the challenges facing them in the future and arm themselves sufficiently to tackle them.
e - commerce, an interesting panel discussion - a word which is in everybody’s mouth these days. But it was clear that still almost a decade after the introduction of e-commerce, that many still do not realise the impact it already has and will have on the future of air cargo. Are airports ready for it? is the handling industry geared towards a speedy “in – out” supply chain and how will e-commerce affect operators and cargo operations? The question as to whether the industry had a serious rethink on e-commerce strategy, still remains unanswered. If the air cargo industry does not get its act together then the e-commerce giants will force themselves to manage from A - Z on their own.
That leads us somewhat to the discussion on collaboration in the supply chain. It was surprising to see that over 60% of the delegates voted that there was enough collaboration. It was Patrik
Tschirch, LUG Frankfurt’s CEO, who put them back on the right track by stating that “we talk - but in reality, there is no progress.” Steven Polmans, BRU Airport’s Head of Cargo, went
further by saying that we are not coming any further because we are using yesterday’s technology for the future.
And - last but not least - the air cargo infrastructure for today’s market? One gets the impression that the industry as a whole pushes the blame for the lack of interest and investment in air cargo infrastructure back to the airports. They are surely also to blame as they see more short-term revenues in the passenger sector related businesses. However, air cargo managers and those above them have to force political interest in air cargo in order to try and overcome this.
All in all, a good ACH conference, one which next year will have two separate panels. Generation Y as Chris Notter stated and New potential young entrants addressing certain projects.
Look forward to that!
John Mc Donagh
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