Geert Aerts (GA) heads Brussels Airport Cargo since 08MAR21, following long-time cargo chief Steven Polmans in this position. CFG spoke with him and chief business developer, Piet Demunter (PD), asking both managers about the role air freight plays for the airport company, and which tasks are at the top of their to-do list. The interview was carried out by Heiner Siegmund (HS).
HS: Geert, Steven’s successes are remarkable, putting Brussels Cargo on the international cargo map. Are his many achievements boosting your motivation or are they rather a burden because you will be measured against him?
GA: Steven did a great job. He is well respected within the cargo industry. On the other hand, I can bring in my own flavor and professional experience. And despite the change in
leadership, the focus of Brussels Airport on cargo remains the same. So, I and our team will continue to cooperate with our local cargo community to further grow and fine-tune our specialized
services such as pharma, perishables, accommodating animals in our new Care & Inspection Center, and e-commerce, concentrating on sustainability at the same time, and pushing digitalization
further up front. We will put our main focus on these three challenging topics, among some other issues. And let me assure you that air freight was and keeps on being an important business sector
for the airport company, seen by the support of the management and the investments in the ground infrastructure.
PD: Let me add to this that Steven and I have worked together for about a decade and what he achieved for Brussels Airport Cargo is just remarkable. When he decided to exit the company, it was very clear that searching for a second Steven wouldn’t work, because you cannot duplicate him. So, we decided to look for a candidate who would build on our existing successes and at the same time provide new impetus.
HS: And was the search successful?
PD: I do think so (he says, looking at Geert Aerts).
Faster on the Green Lane
HS: You announced that a Green Lane will be introduced to speed up cargo processes, resembling the seamless travel concept in the passenger sector. Which are the cornerstones?
GA: Our interest, and that of Air Cargo Belgium, is to speed up landside activities to prevent jams and time losses within the supply chain. It will be achieved through digitalization, making all ground transport processes visible 24/7, and paperwork completely superfluous. That’s the ambition we share particularly with BRUcloud, the Cargo Community Platform. This Digital Green Lane initiative will be accomplished in the course of next year. Currently we have 12 applications in BRUcloud, and for our upcoming landside management process to become fully digital, 4 have been selected to start with, to gain mutual experience.
Sufficient space for growth
HS: To further develop your pharma and biotech business, you announced expanding your on-airport infrastructure. What exactly are you planning?
GA: To put it in a nutshell, we do not suffer from a lack of space. Instead, we would be able to double the warehouse capacity within our cargo complex, if needed. One cornerstone of the expansion strategy is the modernization of older facilities, which increases productivity. Simultaneously, we offer business partners access to efficient airside infrastructure with direct apron access, as done with Expeditors, Kuehne+Nagel, and WFS. And these 3 examples are not the end of the line.
Quality comes first
HS: Liège has surpassed Brussels Airport for some time in terms of tonnage throughput and freighter operations. Why should a potential newcomer opt in favor of BRU instead of LGG?
GA: Due to our product specialization, digital strategy, and strong community, we are able to add value to their operation, making us attractive in commercial terms.
PD: We are not aiming to be the biggest. We focus on our key markets and segments in which we aim to provide the best possible quality and take the lead, in relation to many
airports surrounding us, including Liège. We push each other to do better day after day.
Yearning for bellies
HS: In your newsletter, sent out today (23MAR21), you don’t mention the role integrators and the e-commerce business play. Intentionally?
GA: No, e-commerce was mentioned shortly. Of course, DHL is an extremely important partner which we constantly speak with to accommodate them even better in our system. They have grown tremendously and are a key player in Brussels, linking our airport with a broad European and intercontinental network.
HS: Finally, what’s your 2021 estimate in tonnage and revenues?
GA: We expect a tonnage growth of 2-3% in 2021, similar to 2020 (+2.2%). Much will depend on the further development of the pandemic. As soon as travel bans are lifted, and passenger flights become normal again, belly capacity will jump up, spurring cargo transports. We all hope this will happen soon.
HS: Thank you for this interview.
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