It was at the beginning of this year that the Indian government issued a detailed paper titled ‘National Air Cargo Policy Outline 2019 (NACP).’ There was a lot of publicity in the Indian
press at the time as hopes were high that the government under Mr Modi’s guidance would finally initiate a turnaround for the air cargo handling scene at the numerous Indian
It seems to have gone quiet on that front in the meantime and maybe some of our Indian readers can comment or give a broader view on what has - or has not, happened in the meantime.
A market with enormous potential
In total, the Indian air transport industry in 2016 was said to contribute in the region of US$30 billion annually to India’s GDP, as well as directly employing almost 400,000 staff with another almost 600,000 being indirectly supported by the industry’s supply chain. Whether that figure has risen even further since then, remains to be seen.
The winners in the Indian air freight market are not the Indian carriers, but mainly those from Europe and Asia who offer much capacity in the form of full freighters and long-haul belly cargo space. Direct and regular routes have been set up into and out of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and other important Indian commercial centres.
Air India, which is still fighting to save itself, has no own freighter network and even less belly capacity on offer due to services to some areas having been cut back. To make matter worse, India’s second largest international operating carrier, Jet Airways, has now disappeared from the scene altogether.
Many obstacles need to be set aside
Indian national carriers with less cargo space and a market which is still growing. Between 2014 to 2018 cargo flown rose by 10% and the trend seems to continue. Of this, just over 60% of air cargo was international and grew by almost 16% in 2018. Domestic flown cargo also went up in the same period by 8%.
The e-commerce market in India is now also picking up pace along with the domestic express industry.
So, plenty of scope for Indian shippers, importers and carriers. However, the industry is still burdened by weak handling infrastructures, too many civil servants involved and jammed and often being hampered by impassable roads which slow down end-delivery times.
The vision for national air cargo
In their outline report the NACP issued their own Vision Statement, which reads as follows:
“To leverage the Indian air cargo network to provide cargo transportation by air to the masses at an affordable cost and to connect every village to the national and global supply chain.”
The vision statement went on to say that “(the aim is) to make air cargo and logistics in India the most efficient, seamless, and cost and time effective in the world over a period of 10 years.”
Long way to go to become a top air cargo market
One hell of a statement to make, and one which many are still waiting to see how the relevant authorities will get the ball rolling. Almost nine months have gone by since that message was put out and one searches for indications that something is happening considering that one of the short-term goals published in the NACP was that India should be in the league of the top five global air freight markets by 2025.
There’s no doubt - India’s air cargo market is a very important source of income for the country but faces the danger of being left in the dark if the promised changes are not followed up on and also that Indian carriers get their fair share of the market.
Hopefully, there is something happening and views or comments from our Indian or India related readers may shed a different light on the issue.
John Mc Donagh