Steven Polmans, Director Cargo and Logistics at Brussels Airport puts it straight: standstill means regression. And Europe, by and large, has been standing still for many years. The
consequences are foreseeable: Europe is falling behind its Asian and North American competitors.
It's time for politicians and the electorate to wake up, he urges, taking countermeasures and supporting innovations.
The skeptical statement delivered by Mr Polmans, criticizing the wide-spread immobility and egocentric behavior of a growing number of Europeans, is first and foremost his personal view. However, it can be expected that many share his thoughts due to similar experiences. “My impression is that Europe is on its way to becoming an open-air museum for the world,” he exclaimed. “Long-term investments are almost impossible because there is immediate and often very fierce opposition to anything new.”
He went on to say: “Many well-situated people, particularly those living in Western Europe, are scared of change, because change is perceived as a harassment threatening the comfort zone they live in.”
Having said this, he outlines the consequences of this selfish and nimby behavior: “Europe is falling behind while Asia, particularly China, and North America are moving ahead quite fast, overtaking the old continent at breath-taking speed. “I think Europe has to embrace sustainability and growth, because they can go hand in hand.”
At this point of discussion with this publication, the question came up which consequences of his harsh criticism Mr Polmans intends to draw himself.
The answer is typical for this energetic manager who hates mediocrity, and continuously strives for improvements: “To carry on unabated, in catapulting Brussels Airport’s cargo and logistics business into the major European league, saving jobs and making staff proud to be a member of BRUcargo and working at Brussels Airport.”
A noble but costly undertaking, evidenced by investments of €100 million spent on the construction of a new animal inspection center, a new pharma complex, cargo terminals for ground handling agents Swissport and WFS, a new 5,600 sqm facility for forwarding agent Ziegler, and a security building rented by Brinks for storing and processing valuables or top-quality works of art. Further investments for developing 150,000 additional square meters at BRUcargo are to follow, with constructions expected to be finalized by 2023/24. By then a total of 450,000 sqm will be roofed.
Steven Polmans, Director Cargo and Logistics at Brussels Airport Cargo in an interview with
Heiner Siegmund of CargoForwarder Global
Can-do mentality needed
Investing in new freight facilities when the market is as flat as it has been for months, makes a lot of sense, emphasizes the manager. When business picks up again in future, the groundwork has been done and “we can offer our tenants 50,000 additional square meters for utilization, added to the existing facilities which presently cover 300,000 square meters.” By 23/24, the renovation of the apron flanking BRUcargo will be accomplished as well, fully financed out of the airport’s coffers. “What is really encouraging, is the phenomenal growth of our pharmaceutical business here at Brussels Airport,” states Mr Polmans. “That’s why we need specialized warehouses and state-of-the-art facilities.” This goes hand-in-hand with well-trained staff, continuous performance enhancements, and a can-do mentality instead of a work-to-rule attitude, he adds.
Sichuan Airlines is coming
Touching the cargo business in the first half year, Polmans speaks of sales declines in the region of ten percent. However, things might improve gradually in the weeks ahead when Sichuan Airlines starts twice-weekly full cargo services to Brussels that will be doubled at the end of this year and flown daily as of next year. The carrier’s A330F aircraft are able to accommodate up to 55 tons per take-off.
Volume-wise, this is more than just a drop in the cargo ocean.