The ambitions of Brussels Airport do not stop at pharmaceuticals. Together with the physical upgrade and expansion of the cargo village, e-commerce is another top project under construction, stresses BRU’s Head of Cargo Steven Polmans during a one-to-one meeting with CargoForwarder Global.
Dealing with e-commerce issues is nothing new to Brussels Airport, but the importance of this product is steadily increasing. In recognition of this “we decided to adopt the same strategy that we
used for pharma,” Mr Polmans states. To finetune this and define a clear strategy BRU Cargo and the University of Antwerp initiated a joint study.
According to the manager, it involves aspects like pre-clearance and customs, infrastructure, niche markets or operations. Results are expected to be tabled by the end of February or early March. Following that, BRU intends to launch the project together with some partners. “The intention is to integrate it actively in our planning and economic vision.”
Applause for Alibaba and LGG
E-commerce cannot be brought under a common denominator, he thinks. “It is a very comprehensive matter and the question will be on which part of this market we can focus best.”
Mr Polmans applauds the decision taken by Alibaba to turn Liege Airport into its European hub. “We see this as a very positive move by Alibaba. We would never have been able to accommodate them. And it is much better that they come to Liege than to another airport abroad. You also mustn’t forget that we have a lot of belly capacity from China.”
E-commerce will become a fourth commodity for Brussels Airport to specialise in, apart from pharmaceuticals, perishables and products requiring Animal Veterinary Inspection (AVI). As for the latter the focus will be on scheduled traffic and not on charters. Brussels Airport will not in the least invest in another Horse Inn, says Mr Polmans.
New generation of pharma dollies
Pharmaceuticals have been Brussels Airport’s trademark speciality for the last couple of years, driving a lot of innovation. A textbook example is the ‘Airside Pharma Transporter,’ a passive cooling dolly for on-tarmac temperature monitoring.
Their number has been brought from four to presently nine. The new dollies will be of an upgraded version and the existing ones will be adapted with a better cooling engine allowing longer independence.”
Eyes on South America
Partially thanks to the problems at Amsterdam, Brussels Airport has been able to win additional volume, but some airlines have opted for the airport for their own reasons. “What is going on at AMS has for sure in some way contributed to the growth of the neighbouring airports,” Mr Polmans says in a cryptic way.
LATAM Cargo and Avianca have, at last, opened up Brussels Airport for the South American market. “This is a market on which we are keen to grow as, today, we have more volume than capacity. Not only on exports, we have also a lot of local customers in the perishables industry who are very interested in this.”
A temporary lack of space is making Brussels Airport cautious in its growth strategy, Mr Polmans admits. “If we grow too fast, we will find ourselves in operational problems.”
The upgrade of the existing Brucargo area plus new ground infrastructure will offer a solution to this luxury problem. By next February, WFS will open additional new 10,000 m² second-line premises. The company is also booked for another 25,000 m² airside handling centre in the next phase of the development of Brucargo West. Expeditors and Kuehne+Nagel will also move to the new zone.
Dnata will be accommodated in the 703 building currently occupied by Aviapartner, which is downsizing. So far Dnata has not yet communicated about existing (for Brussels Airport) or new customers. Emirates will not be one of them, however.
Regarding potential new clients Mr Polmans becomes tight-lipped. “There are several options being discussed and looked at, in an open and good dialogue. Talks are on-going with airlines currently landing at another airport, but there are also companies who are already serving Brussels and who are looking for a solutions or want to consolidate their operation with a new handler.”
ACB has surpassed its expectations
The umbrella organisation Air Cargo Belgium (ACB) was set up only two years ago and which has surpassed its own ambitions, so it seems. “Already after one year we had fulfilled the ambitions we had set for 3 years and after 2 years we have surpassed our 5-year goal. We are doing fine as Brussels Airport thanks to the support we have been given.”
“ACB will continue doing what it has been doing so far, which is operational facilitation, digitisation, training and reaching out to schools and the labour market. Together with the airport community we are working on an updated action plan and the priorities for the next year.”
Ever since its foundation the fate of Brussels Airport has been intertwined with Sabena’s and its successor Brussels Airlines’ fate, the airport’s home carrier. As for the latter, persistent rumours in the market will have it that a great deal of its African cargo is leaking away to Paris CDG. When confronted with this Mr Polmans can only give one answer: “No comment.”
Asked about this aspect, Lufthansa Cargo’s Head of Communications Jacqueline Casini stated: “We cannot confirm a loss of volumes to Paris CDG. Lufthansa Cargo took over the marketing of Brussels Airlines’ freight capacity last September, and we are so far happy with the integration process.”
Marcel Schoeters / Heiner Siegmund