The 25,000 m² cargo facility run by ground handling giant Swissport at Brussels Airport, is the largest the company operates in Europe when measured by throughput and volumes processed.
Soon, 3,620 m² will be added to the complex for storing and processing temperature sensitive products as well as another 930 square meters on top of the Pharma Center’s 3,620 m2 for processing
In joyous anticipation, the local management speaks of a game changer (see video below).
A large and empty hall “decorated” with metal bars and wooden joists lying on the floor, and a cherry picker standing amongst them: This is what Swissport Cargo’s Pharma Center looks like
Hard to believe that in about three weeks from now everything will be in place: chillers, cooling equipment, chambers offering different internal temperatures for storing and processing sensitive products. Although it all resembles a large construction site, the Swissport management is confident that all work will have been accomplished by October 23, and that the Pharma Center will be ready to welcome its first shipment, whether it be pharmaceuticals or dangerous goods.
Benchmark for pharma and DG processing
Welcomed then are also major shippers, forwarders and airline representatives along with leading Belgian politicians and hand-picked celebrities to attend the inauguration ceremony. “In total, we invited 160 guests to attend the opening ceremony,” stated Will Dougherty, Operations Support Director Swissport Belgium, who is the driving force behind Swissport’s pharma project together with Terminal Manager, Wouter Vandemaele.
The soon to be opened state-of-the-art facility is expected to lift Swissport Cargo’s business at Brussels Airport to the next level. “Cherry on the cake,” “game changer,” “best-in-class,” and similar optimistic declarations were frequently heard from leading Swissport Cargo team members during a pre-visit of the site last Thursday, which CargoForwarder Global was invited to attend.
Kudos to the BRUCargo developer
It is not just the handling agent’s own business that may be stimulated: “Our Pharma Center should also up the overall attractiveness of Brussels Airport for airlines, forwarders and shippers engaged in the pharmaceutical business,” added Hendrik Leyssens, VP Global Cargo Operations at Swissport International. In the same breath he gave kudos to Steven Polmans, BRU’s Director Cargo and Logistics, for what the executive has done in recent times to increase the attractiveness of the place for the freight industry as a whole. This also includes integrators, Mr Leyssens emphasized, pointing to DHL’s huge warehouse which has recently been expanded and is a clear sign of confidence in Brussels as an intriguing business location.
Different climate rooms
The Swissport Pharma Center offers its future users two different cool rooms for their goods: the larger one, comprising of 2,620 m², is operated at temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C, depending on the specific requirements of the goods being stored and processed there. The smaller premises of 1,000 m² is cooled down to between 2°C and 8°C.
Both facilities are equipped with a large number of racking positions, a number of weighing scales connected to computers, and sufficient trucking docks. The entire complex is CCTV-controlled with non-authorized personnel unable to pass the security “demarcation line,” as Will Dougherty put it.
Swissport id investing 11 million euros in the entire facility, which is rented from the operator Brussels Airport Company SA for a term of twenty years.
Swissport Transformation Manager Will Dougherty comments on the benefits which the new Pharma Center at Brussels Airport offers
At BRU, Swissport feels well-equipped to weather the current storm
At Brussels, the 350 Swissport Cargo staff generated revenues of 34 million euros last year. When adding the contribution of their 150 employees at Liege Airport, the turnover in Belgium amounted to 50 million euros altogether. “As things stand, we expect the same figure in fiscal 2019,” VP Global Ops, Hendrik Leyssens stated. However, he admitted that volumes have gone south lately, reflecting the general market trend. “But thanks to some internal measures and smart moves, we believe that we are able to compensate the current contraction of volumes.”
At BRU, Swissport Cargo’s main clients are Lufthansa Cargo in combination with Brussels Airlines, whose entire freight activities is exclusively managed by LH Cargo, followed by Swiss WorldCargo, Air-France-KLM Cargo, ANA Cargo, Finnair, Cargolux, and Delta Air Lines.
And who comes next? “We are in discussions with some carriers and will announce names once a deal is inked,” said Mr Leyssens, unwilling to disclose more information at this point.
Autonomous check-in of cargo
The ground handler also announced that customers are now able to self-check-in air freight consignments at special kiosks located within their warehouses. Their freight terminal at Brussels Airport was the front runner in rolling out this new service, followed by Amsterdam Schiphol. The kiosk self-service functionality will be rolled out across all core cargo stations within the next 24 months, according to a Swissport release.
“Our new kiosks support the paperless eFreight initiative by IATA and at the same time accelerate the import and export processes for our customers significantly,” said Mr Leyssens. The Swissport executive added that “truck drivers benefit from minimal wait times and faster turn-arounds.”
The handling agent points out that the new system increases efficiency and security. During the documents check, the kiosk system, which is connected to the EU Regulated Agent database, also controls the security status of every shipment, the press release states.
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