Some forwarding companies in Brussels Airport were prepared to share the extent of their exposure to the Covid-19 crisis with CargoForwarder Global. Size, niches, and specific markets appear to play a role. Better yields provide the silver lining.
Steven Gillis, Head Middle Office Airfreight at Bolloré Logistics Belgium, admits that things were difficult at the beginning of the crisis, especially due to the lack of capacity. “We had a
30% drop during the last 2 weeks of March. Aerospace, for one, had dropped considerably. At the end of April and early May, volumes went up again thanks to the import of face masks, hand
sanitizers and surgical gloves.”
“We have put a great deal of time and effort in advising our customers. We had the impression that the market was slower in accepting the new situation than we were. After the second half of April, things picked up rather well. Pharma is performing extraordinary well, consistently producing the same volumes.”
“As for general cargo to Africa, one of our core businesses, the impact came later. The effect of the crisis slowed down after 20 April, when we organized our own charter operation to West-Africa from Liege Airport, for larger customers who are important to the group,” Mr Gillis adds.
“That means that we have shifted some 25 to 30 tons per flight from Brussels to Liege. As soon as Brussels Airlines starts reintroducing its Africa flights, we can bring back some of this to Brussels, especially for smaller stations like Conakry and Freetown.”
The domino effect of a pandemic was felt directly by BDP International, which has chemicals as a niche. “We have identified a considerable drop in the car paint market, which is linked to the automotive industry of course. And due to Covid-19, working from home, and lock down, there are less cars on the road, leading to less collisions and less repair work in the garages,” says Branch Manager, Yves Verheyen.
“On the whole, we have been able to hold out on the export side. Imports were down. We have also introduced temporary unemployment, among other things to maintain solidarity with our sea-freight department,” Mr Verheyen concludes.
Smaller companies need creativity
Speaking as the general manager for Transmarcom and Rhenus Air in Brussels, Marc Andries has experienced a gigantic impact. “On the whole, it is worse due to customers ordering less and shifting to sea-freight. The market has grown smaller and that feeling is shared by all our offices in Europe as well as worldwide.”
Albert Beumer of Eagle Air Agencies also testifies to a slower business. “For a while we had some face mask business, which has fallen back a bit. For a small company, the impact of a crisis is always bigger. It is a one-week vs the other sort of thing.”
Skyfast NV has two niche markets: live animals, and aviation-related catering equipment. Understandably, the former was hit considerably, CEO Jeff Segers admits. “Live animals turned out to be very difficult at the beginning, as many airlines did not want to take live animals, being afraid of cancellations. We have tried to counter this by direct delivery of the animals to available flights. We are well equipped to do this. General cargo is less, simply because there is less cargo. Now things are picking up again and so does the number of options offered by the airlines. That is leading to cheaper rates.”
Promising volume development
Another forwarder, who prefers not to be named, says that the number of consignments has dropped due to the scarcity of capacity. “Thanks to the increase of the margins, we did not do so badly,” he says. “If we would have to move these volumes at the normal rates, the story would be different. So, on the financial side, we are OK.”
Looking ahead, Brussels Airport Company’s Head of Cargo & Logistics, Steven Polmans, hinted that first figures indicate encouraging July results, consolidating the positive trend of June. “Despite a rather low restart of long-haul passenger traffic and lower belly cargo volumes, our overall cargo results continue to be strong thanks to good growth in traditional full cargo as well as integrator traffic. The only market still underperforming is export to Africa, but with the soon to restart long haul operation of Brussels Airlines, that will hopefully change again, too.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic.