The optimism displayed by the Brussels Airport cargo team is not shared wholeheartedly by the freight forwarders. Their ups and downs are heavily impacted by the type of commodity.
A closer look at the airport’s flown cargo volumes for the first six months of 2020 makes clear that the relative success owes a lot to express and e-commerce which are not the traditional
moneymakers for the average forwarder.
Of the total of 235,729 tonnes, 109,666 tonnes (46.52% of the volume,+9.7%) was generated by integrator traffic (DHL mainly), 87,640 tonnes (37.18%,+27.0%) by full freighters and 38,423 tonnes (16.3%,-50.7%) by belly cargo.
Network versus smaller forwarders
According to David Bellon, who chairs the forwarding cluster within Air Cargo Belgium, an internal survey has revealed an evolution in both the figures and the types of cargo, not only over the past few months but also for the weeks to come.
“We have identified an enormous rise in life sciences, but also an enormous drop in general cargo, automotive, machinery and the like. Live animals too, due to the lack of direct flights.”
“The general feeling is that there is a big contrast between the large network forwarders who have a lot of expertise in life sciences, and the middle-sized ones which do not have that expertise,” Mr Bellon concludes.
Dire straits on the horizon
Jack Swilders of Fast Forward Freight says that his company has been able to do quite well thanks to its segment differentiation. “Our AOG (aircraft on ground)-related aerospace volumes have stopped, but these were compensated by other commodities such as face masks. The traffic for specific IT-clients also never stopped. So, in the end we were able to report good figures.”
In spite of his own success, Mr Swilders is convinced that some forwarding companies have fallen victim to the Covid-19 outbreak or will do so in the near future.
Peter van Domburg, District Manager Belgium & Luxemburg at Expeditors, agrees while admitting that his company is on the better side of the divide.
“Thanks to our focus on pharma, we went through some very good months, being able to compensate the drop in other commodities like retail and industrial,” Mr van Domburg says. Expeditors is one of the companies that are due to move into the new Brucargo West premises presently under construction.
A tale of two airports
Koen Gouweloose, CEO Swissport Cargo Services Belgium, has identified an enormous difference between Brussels and Liege. “In Brussels, we had to cope with the drop in belly capacity. As from May/June, this was however compensated by the flights of Ethiopian Cargo and the ghost flights (cargo on passenger planes).”
“In Liege, we had huge growth due to the enormous rise in the number of full freighters. The decision of the World Health Organisation to make LGG its European hub has also had a tremendous impact there. The question remains to what extent passenger traffic in Brussels will recover because, in the end, a substantial part of air cargo flies on passenger aircraft.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
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