Normally, the annual conference of the Frankfurt Air Cargo Community is a physical event where the industry is reviewed, and innovations are presented. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, the meeting held on 18FEB21, entitled "Pharma-Hub FRA", had to make do without an audience. The only people present were the experts on the podium invited to present on the topic. They were: Patrik Tschirch, Chief Executive Officer of the Air Cargo Community, Andreas Seitz, Managing Director DoKaSch Temperature Solutions, Pierre Dominique Pruemm, Deputy Chairman of the Air Cargo Community Frankfurt, Harald Gloy, Executive Board of Operations at Lufthansa Cargo, Michael Hoppe, Secretary General of the Board of Airline Representatives in Germany, and Susanne Klingler-Werner, Director Freight Forwarding Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Nordics, UPS. The meeting was professionally moderated by Joachim von Winning, Chief Executive of the Air Cargo Community Frankfurt.
Three aspects were central to the experts' contributions: Firstly, Frankfurt's outstanding role as the powerhouse of European air freight and pharmaceutical cargo throughput. Secondly, the enormous system relevance of air freight in supplying the population with medical products and vaccines, and – thirdly – remedial measures and optimization options for further finetune the supply chain.
Patrik Tschirch stressed in his review, that Frankfurt is Europe's leading pharmaceutical hub by far. There are sufficient designated areas for the proper storage of and, above all, for handling
pharmaceuticals: more than at any other airport in Europe. A total of 14,000 m² on which temperature-critical goods can be processed, with direct access to the apron, Barig CEO Michael Hoppe
illustrated the favorable framework conditions.
The airport has been CEIV-certified since 2018, and there are around 20 state-of-the-art thermal transporters to ensure the necessary temperature of the shipments, also during transport within the airport. The technical quality of the facilities is superb and, in terms of road connections - important for the delivery and collection of the goods - the airport is excellently located, geographically, on the crossroads of leading European transport links.
DoKaSch manager, Andreas Seitz pointed to a vulnerable point in the supply chain: the shipments’ pre-carriage and onward-carriage processes particularly require greater focus. In the case of deviations of the specified temperatures, ground handlers must know exactly what immediately needs doing, and who to inform in order to prevent major damage. This therefore requires a high level of professional staff competence in order to ensure shipment integrity around the clock.
Flexible and situational night flight control
With this, the manager brought the aspect of time into the discussion. As is well-known, a night-flight ban exists since years in Frankfurt, preventing take-offs and landings between 11 pm (or midnight, in the case of delays) and 5 am. In this regard, Lufthansa Cargo COO Harald Gloy expressly praised the local authorities for authorizing night flights for the air transport of protective equipment or medical goods.
Pierre Dominique Pruemm, who, in addition to his work at the Air Cargo Community, has a professional responsibility in particular as Chairman of the Board of Management for Aviation and Infrastructure of Fraport AG, pointed out that in normal years, i.e. without pandemic influences, around 120,000 tons of medical goods are handled annually in Frankfurt. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, this amount has increased enormously, he stressed.
Politicians sit out problems instead of tackling them
Based on the experience gained over the past few months, the manager made several key demands on politics: The infrastructure for feeder transport (trucking) urgently needs improving. Priority should be given to providing additional parking and parking facilities for trucks along the highways and motorways, including sanitary facilities for drivers. And for the transport of medical goods and vaccines, the truck driving ban in force in Germany must be lifted on Sundays and public holidays. In addition, the Fraport manager added that the politicians must allow people who test negative for Covid-19 right before their departure, to fly again. "Only under this condition can the filigree and costly infrastructure at airports be maintained."
Digitalization is progressing only very slowly
Another criticism of politics, supported by all those in discussion, was the slow progress in digitalization. "We have to speed up and improve significantly," Patrik Tschirch and Susanne Klingler-Werner both said. Klingler-Werner also stressed that air freight was a "pandemic winner", but only in the sense that the relevance of this industry for the supply of protective equipment and medical goods had become clearly visible and tangible.
Looking to the near future, Patrik Tschirch and Harald Gloy emphasized that they did not expect a decline in volumes for the current year, nor for 2022. In other words, the ongoing shortage of capacity in air freight due to the continued lack of belly cargo, will continue to bring profits to the coffers of Lufthansa Cargo, Turkish Airlines Cargo, and Cargolux, to name but three airlines.
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