Tropical fish were the first non-human species to pass through Brussels Airport’s brand-new Animal Care & Inspection Centre (ACIC, see CFG 7 June 2020). The new facility marks another milestone in the airport’s ambition of becoming a center of excellence for cargo requiring special care.
Shooter is an 11-month old Irish setter who has whole-heartedly adopted his ACIC carers and is very eager to invite the Brussels Airport Company’s cargo team members as well as the CFG
correspondent into her bubble.
As a four-legger, she is somewhat in want of company at ACIC, but even if she just missed becoming the complex’s first resident, she can certainly be considered as the launch customer for the off-leash area. ACIC caters for every need.
For the time, being Shooter seems to have the place all to herself. “It is not that we have no animals at the moment, but it is indeed at a volume of around 50% to 70% compared to normal. It is expected to grow again to normal levels with the growth of passenger aviation,” Mr Polmans says.
ACIC was built at the site where the old decompression chamber used to be. “It is the intention to steer the majority of animal transport through the building,” says BAC’s Director Cargo & Logistics, Steven Polmans.
“All animals needing inspection and entering the EU must go via the center and we are convinced that for animals not needing inspection, the quality of the facility will be the convincing reason for shippers, owners and forwarders to use the center as well.”
“On the import side, the animals can pass through various inspections, including those required by the Food Safety Agency, responsible for phytosanitary inspection.”
Import and export zones are completely separated, as well as the staff dressing rooms. BAC invested some 5 million euros in the project. “The huge cost might look out of proportion, but it is due to the fact that you have to provide for every possible situation,” says Mr Polmans.
“Some provisions may never be necessary, but you need them if you want EU accreditation. We have built for the standards of the future, as we wanted to meet regulations that Europe will implement in the near future. At the time we did not yet know these but did not want to take any risks. Nevertheless, however expensive this may be and how good the quality of the infrastructure, you still want to keep the animals in this facility for the shortest time possible. Only then do you offer the best service.”
Both the import and export zones have a freezer as well as a fridge. “A freezer may be needed in case an animal dies. The fridge comes in handy for certain types of insects, which can be brought into a sort of slumbering condition,” ACIC Coordinator Gauthier Weyns explains.
The Animal Stay boxes are fully adaptable, even allowing for natural light to flow in to maintain an atmosphere as natural as possible for the ‘guests’. An in-house built domotics system monitors all the necessary conditions of the stays 24/7. ACIC also has a number of horse stables.
CFG: Does Brussels Airport have the intention to compete with Liege Airport ‘s Horse Inn, Mr Polmans?
SP: “Not in the least. Liege is effectively specialized on large quantities and full charters with horses. We take the broader view and are developing this center for all kind of animals that fly on regular and scheduled flights.”
CFG: Who sends the bill for the ‘residency’ at ACIC, Mr Weyns?
GW: “The proprietor decides on the bill for the services rendered. The Food Safety Agency sets its own tariffs. The bills are sent to the importer or the exporter.”
The proprietor in this case is Dnata, which was selected through a tender to which other interested parties also responded, says Steven Polmans. “For us, quality and expertise in animal handling, as well as neutrality was imperative. One of the advantages of having Dnata, whose facility adjoins ACIC, is that you can call in some of their staff if necessary.”
At the moment, ACIC has its own staff of 5, including Mr Weyns. All his colleagues have had zookeeper training. ACIC will bring another addition to BRU’s range of specialized services alongside perishables and pharma.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
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