Covid and the Russian war on Ukraine have augmented the traditional weak points that shippers have experienced for years. Some of their fears and wishes were revealed during a dedicated panel at TIACA’s Regional Symposium in Amsterdam. Here is a summary of the panelists’ inputs.
For shippers, the end-to-end service is imperative, said panelist, Denis Choumert, Vice-President of the European Shippers Council (ESC). In this respect, they have not been served hand and foot over the past few years. Covid brought a shortage in air cargo capacity, forcing passenger planes to be put to use as freighters, which had an effect on the rates.
Clogged trade lanes, especially in ocean logistics, led to a certain shift from sea to air and, beyond that, from traditional air to express. Manufacturers have been re-thinking their shoring policy: still off-shore or rather near-shore?
The shift to air cargo may well change the industry, said Lars T. Droog, Director EMEA Operations, Cytek Biosciences. “We opted for smaller shipments, trying to keep them together for transport in one go. We believe in partnerships with the carriers. We have also set up monthly rates and regular bench marking.”
Say partnership, say reliability and information. The latter is still not as it should be, thus affecting the former. “We are living in a tight situation. Now it really matters, but what we really see is consignments being partially loaded on 4 different flights on 4 different days. Tracking & tracing is still a manual exercise, which is as good as the operator on the airport,” said Pieter Vlam, Manager Freight, Order Management, and Customs, at Bausch Health Netherlands
Mr Choumert thought that the air cargo industry is lagging behind in this respect. “What is vital in tracking & tracing are predictability and visibility. Let’s put an end to fragmentation and out-of-the box thinking. Why can’t we have consolidated express, for example? We also lack transparency in air cargo rates. In ocean freight, we already know what is happening.”
The implementation of ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) programs from producer to end-client, are the latest mantra. The representatives of the shippers’ community all get this demand for sustainability from their customers as well as from potential staff and would like to see it pushed through the entire supply chain.
As for the air cargo industry, ESG measures should be implemented on a European event or a national one, like the Dutch government has just decided on. “The only result of that, is that your cargo is pushed over the border to neighboring countries,” said Mr Droog.
On the whole, the shippers appear to remain cautious for the near to middle-term. They fear that the staff shortage mentioned above may eventually seriously impact the quality of both air and sea services. Besides, the fact that all transport modes are experimenting with alternative energy sources, may reduce the availability of these sources for ‘the rest of the industry’, they warned.
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam
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