Ten years ago, the Italian group Bcube was not involved in air cargo at all. Today it is involved in a major development programme to put Ostend Bruges International Airport back on the air cargo map.
The mother company is one of the largest logistics groups, says Marco Materazzo, Network Development Manager, a regular guest at the Belgian Airport. “They started mainly as the logistics partner
for FIAT and the owner family is from Casale Monferrato, near Turin, where the company headquarters are also located. The cooperation with FIAT also explains the worldwide presence, especially
all over Europe and in South-America. “
CFG: What made Bcube enter the air cargo market?
MM: “We entered the aviation industry around 10 years ago, through take-overs of cargo handling companies in Rome-Fiumicino, Milano Malpensa and Linate and from the 2019 also in Venice Marco Polo.”
“Rome and Venice are important stations for Bcube thanks to the widebody presence of passenger aircraft that offer huge belly capacity to the air cargo market. Malpensa, main station for Bcube, is the biggest cargo hub in Italy thanks to the proximity of production facilities and the presence of freighter operations.”
“We are very focused on special cargo, especially perishables and pharma and we are proud to say that we were the second company in Europe to be certified as CEIV IATA after Brussels Airport. E-commerce is also a new and fast growing business in the Italian air cargo market, and within this niche we are the main player with a dedicated organization.”
Ostend offers a lot of opportunities
CFG: What brought you to Ostend, Mr Materazzo?
MM: “Our internationalization process started early in 2019 and Ostend was an excellent opportunity to begin this development project. We made a good agreement with the airport also thanks to the availability of warehouses and the dedicated area for cargo activities.”
CFG: So, you were not put off by the decline the airport has shown over the years?
MM: “At the beginning we were aware of low interest in OST due to some commercial and operational errors done in the past, but we are there also to change this market mentality into something positive as it was in the past. We started from zero, renovating the present facilities and investing in modern and new equipment to assist, at least, 2 flights at the same time.”
“On the people side, we started with setting up a good and local management, and it is important to know that Bcube in Ostend is a Belgian company, with local responsibilities for HR, finance and corporate affairs, as well as the station manager. We also have a team of 20 people fully trained and ready to provide handling services according to our standards.”
CFG: How will you lure the international air cargo players into coming to OST?
MM: “To attract customers, we want to offer something different from the market, starting from the quality of the ground service together with a very good customer service at the office. I am pleased to say that Ostend is the right place to do that thanks to the availability of people and the approach: you can have new or experienced staff and both want to work to grow in the company, do something for their city and this is a very positive attitude. There is also a lot of local workforce available, which is trained in collaboration with the government.”
“And there is our infrastructure. We have over 4,000 m² of warehouse, fully equipped, in which we can manage 45,000 tonnes per year. We also have 6 B747 dedicated parking stands in front of the building and this is the perfect situation to operate in. Given those conditions we can guarantee a freighter turnaround in 3 hours, in and out, and that may become the operational standard for OST.”
“In the larger airports there are usually waiting times of more than 7 hours, operating from OST you may reach your destination 3 hours earlier than usual. Our people are also trained to support the process giving step by step information. We believe that before going digital it is important to invest in communication and customer service approach.”
CFG: When will you really take off?
MM: “Commercially, 2019 was not a good year for air cargo in general and in Europe, and this situation influenced our start-up with a limited number of charters. Currently we are also involved in some import business and off-line services, but that is not the reason why we are in OST.”
“The next target for us is to attract 1 or 2 prestigious airlines in OST to be able to support the development plan of the airport. We are working to have some tests, at the beginning of next year, in order to start the regular operations by the summer season. We are ready for any business option, but we first need to convince the market and the rest will follow.”
Marcel Schoeters in Ostend
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