The Belgian airport has announced a surprising personnel decision: Torsten Wefers is moving from Cologne-Bonn (CGN) to the Walloon airport (LGG), to become its Head of Marketing and
Sales. The 46-year-old will join the airport’s Executive Committee. In contrast to his previous function in Cologne, he now has the opportunity to decide and steer air freight-related matters in
close coordination with Liege’s top management.
Mr. Wefers is stepping into a big pair of shoes, because his predecessor, Steven Verhasselt, who left LGG on 31DEC21, succeeded in putting the airport on the global cargo map during his 10-year
tenure as Head of Marketing and Sales. It is mainly thanks to his many initiatives, that the former provincial airport has meanwhile become a household name in the European cargo landscape.
Convincing track record
Torsten Wefers is well known in the air freight world. Under his direction, DHL Express built a state-of-the-art distribution center in Cologne; the U.S. integrators, UPS and FedEx, continuously expanded their activities, as did Turkish freight carrier, MNG; and lately, Coyne Airways decided to operate cargo flights between Sharjah and Cologne-Bonn, deploying a B757F on the weekly serviced route. These are just some examples of successful acquisitions accomplished under Mr. Wefers’ tenure.
Undecided CBCC future
However, his move to Liege leaves one task undone in CGN: the sale of the Cologne Bonn Cargo Center – CBCC to a bidder. Since 2015, the facility is managed by ground handler, Wisskirchen, under a 30-year lease which expires in 2045. However, industry sources say that Wisskirchen owner, Oliver Hellwig, intends to transfer his utilization rights to a potential buyer. The hottest candidate seems to be dnata, which has expressed its interest in succeeding Wisskirchen. Yet, the purchase price demanded by Hellwig, rumored to be 10 million euros, is apparently an insurmountable hurdle for dnata or other potential bidders such as WFS. At least, that is the current stalemate situation according to insider information.
This and the CBCC’s reportedly poor handling quality (Amazon complaints), are no longer topics that will keep Torsten Wefers up at night. In any case, the Liege management is very pleased that it has succeeded in hiring the manager, confirms CEO, Laurent Jossart: “Torsten has extensive experience in air freight, marketing, and business relations. Throughout his career, initially at Dusseldorf Airport, then at Cologne Airport, he has demonstrated his thorough knowledge of air transport, cargo, and the logistics chain. Torsten will help us in coordinating developments as per our environmental master plan.”
In his response, Wefers addresses CEO Jossart's expectations and already names his own focal points for his future activities: In recent years, Liege Airport “has seen a sharp increase in air freight traffic, which has positioned it as a leading European air cargo hub. In order to achieve Liege Airport's ambitious strategic plan, I shall pay particular attention to implementing a high-performance digital system for the cargo community, and to strengthening multimodal logistics solutions.”
The latter task, in particular, is of central importance to increasing the attractiveness of the location. This is because there are hardly any regional distribution transports, since very few passenger aircraft operate to/from Liege that could distribute imports arriving from Far East or North America to their final destinations all across Europe. The same applies to exports in the opposite direction. So far, this job has been done mainly by trucks and, to some extent, by rail.
Diplomatic skills are required
Another “diplomatic” task of Wefers will be to keep as much FedEx traffic as possible in Liege, and to halt the integrator’s successive migration to Paris-CDG. Perhaps this will require a change of paradigm that puts more focus on transatlantic traffic again instead of the China-Liege connections that have grown so strongly in recent times.
Bert Selis goes
Concurrently to Mr. Wefers' appointment, Bert Selis, VP Cargo & Logistics, exited Liege Airport, becoming VP Business Development, e-Commerce, Express & Freight Forwarders EMEAA at ground handler Worldwide Flight Services. In his new role he will be based in Liege.
Bert has spent the last 9 years working for the Waloon airport, most recently as VP Cargo and Logistics. In this function he was responsible for the growth of the cargo business and attracting key global customers to Liege. Bert has close to 20 years' experience in business development and sales in the air freight and aviation industry.
In his future role, reporting to Marc Claesen, WFS' Senior VP Commercial EMEAA, Mr. Selis will support the ground handling agent's EMEAA Commercial Team in expanding WFS' strategic focus on e-commerce, express and freight forwarder activities in the region.
"Bert is a valuable addition to our EMEAA managment team and brings considerable knowledge and expertise to our organization," Marc Claesen commented.
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