Flowers, hugs, and a big farewell: the 31AUG20 will probably always be remembered by Gerton Hulsman as it marks his last day in the office at Flughafen Dusseldorf Cargo GmbH, where the energetic and dynamic cargo professional and grand seigneur headed the organization for the last 13 years. Looking at this approaching date, he is already overcome by mixed feelings, melancholy, paired with the emotions and a certain pain of farewell.
Soon, a fruitful era ends in which the native Dutchman and his team have helped shape the reputation of Dusseldorf Airport as a cargo destination, by delivering first class service day after day
to shippers, forwarders, and airlines alike. Yet Gerton’s activities reached far beyond Dusseldorf and the neighboring Benelux region, through his many appearances at leading trade fairs such as
Air Cargo China, Air Cargo Africa, or the Caspian Air Cargo Summit. At these and similar events, he also vigorously championed the interests of the Cool Chain Association in combination with the
freight policy of the airport association AviAlliance (DUS, BUD, HAM) where he became the “father” of the air cargo model "Connect Differently.”
The slogan reflects the idea to establish the three airports as alternatives to the major cargo hubs in western and central Europe, through close cooperation and division of labor as each location has its own specific strengths; Hamburg with its large sea port and strong aviation industry (Airbus, LH Technik, suppliers) for example, or the highly industrialized Rhine-Ruhr region with Dusseldorf as its political and economic center. Establishing a road feeder network linking the 3 sites to create mass and enable consolidations is a cornerstone of AviAlliance’s advance. Covid-19, however, has put this project on the backburner.
Motion vs standstill
"No, I am not a person who can go for a walk all day, mow the lawn, lead the dog on a leash, sit in a deck chair reading papers or books, or do similar leisurely stuff," Gerton describes his aversions very clearly. In other words, he belongs to the kind of people for whom a quiet everyday life after a fulfilled professional career is a horrifying idea. Although looking after his and his spouse, Sjannie Hulsman’s 25 acres (10 hectares) of land in parque regional de la Sierra de Gredos, a natural reserve located 165 km west of Spain’s capital Madrid, can be expected to remain the exception, despite the fact that one of the couple’s two Guatemalan former foster children lives nearby.
So, what comes next?
DUS Cargo without Gerton Hulsman… This will take time to get used to. Fact is, that his forthcoming retirement is a great loss for Dusseldorf Airport. On the other hand, it is a gain for the “Energy in Process,” (EIP) consultancy whose Commercial Director he will become on 01SEP20.
EIP is a consultancy firm specialized in air cargo management and supply chain issues. The company claims to deliver the industry first-hand expertise in airport master planning, warehouse design and network development. “Despite many initiatives by industry community platforms, change is slow. By and large we face the same, fragmented process chains we did when this industry took off 60 / 70 years ago,” EIP’s CEO Franz van Hessen reasons. Changes cannot be enforced from the outside, but must come from within, he says. “Smart and lean process engineering, and better use of digitalization within one’s own enterprise or organization, will lead to higher transparency, efficient data exchange, and faster cargo flows,” he states.
Containers and pallets paved his way right from day one
A task predestined for Gerton Hulsman who learned his cargo lessons from A to Z within KLM, followed by a leading role at Cologne-Bonn Airport (CGN) and finally his function as MD of DUS Cargo. At the time, he succeeded former freight boss Christa Soltau, who left DUS to assume a management role at Budapest Airport prior to her subsequent engagement in South Africa.
During Gerton’s tenure at DUS, he initiated many projects from small to large. Among them was the IATA CEIV certification of DUS Cargo for pharma and other temp sensitive shipments which has already been renewed once in the meantime.
The airport’s nimbus as an attractive cargo destination played a crucial role for carriers such as Emirates, ANA, SIA, American Airlines, Delta, and others to launch passenger flights to DUS, improving the international connectivity of DUS and offering cargo clients plenty of lower deck capacity in the holds of the passenger jetliners. Lufthansa operated a mini hub linking DUS with destinations in North America, so did Finnair and also Air Berlin before its bankruptcy in 2017. “Even at peak times, we consolidated, sorted, and stored shipments in our 6,500 m²warehouse without any delays or operational hiccups,” he exclaims, verbally applauding his extremely committed staff. This outstanding service became known in the industry and brought DUS Cargo a number of prestigious awards.
Where there is light, there is also shadow
Gerton only touches this aspect very briefly due to enduring loyalty to his long-term employer. However, he indicates that the airport management could have supported the air freight business more clearly. For example, by showing up at major trade shows such as Air Cargo Europe or Air Cargo India to promote DUS as attractive site for air freight. “We have a highly attractive business environment with more than 50 pharma producers, among them giant Bayer Leverkusen, a strong machinery and automotive industry, but many of their products are trucked to Amsterdam, Liege or Luxembourg to be flown off from there,” he states. Combined managerial and political efforts could have helped to channel parts of these flows via Dusseldorf, reducing the drain of locally produced exports to AMS, LGG or LUX.
Lutz Honerla takes over
Gerton also regrets that, despite the odds, no animal station was ever built on-airport; a missed opportunity to make the site much more attractive for this kind of special air transportation. Further to this, the reconstruction of a pharma facility is still on hold after moisture penetrated the old building leading to mold. "Mold and pharmaceuticals - that's a no-go," says Cool Chain Board member, Gerton Hulsman.
Seen in this light, the manager leaves an airport that still has room for improvement when it comes to air freight. The task of driving forward and completing the pending projects will now become the responsibility of Gerton’s successor, Lutz Honerla. He will take up his new job as head of DUS Cargo on 01SEP20.
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