Inflation, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions caused by Russia's war on Ukraine, the continued lockdowns in China: these and other challenges were brought up at BUD Airport's Air Cargo Day held last Thursday (15SEP22). However, more prominent was the optimism shown by speakers and panelists concerning Budapest's role as a fast growing and dynamic gateway for air cargo in central and eastern Europe.
In his keynote address, Steven Polmans, Head of TIACA, confessed to being a junkie or, in his own words, “I'm an air cargo addict.” He then emphasized that his organization's event in the Hungarian capital three years previously, had been a turning point, converting TIACA from a former debating club into a powerful association that gets involved and whose voice is increasingly heard by airlines, forwarding agents, airports, as well as regulators. Turning to today’s needs, he recommended: “Let's lead and not follow. Alone we can go fast, but together we go faster,” was his core message in a nutshell.
Together is better than alone
With this appeal, he described exactly what has been ongoing in Budapest for several years. There, the air cargo community pulls together, always in constructive, sometimes controversial, dialog with the airport management, as Head of BUD Cargo, Jozsef Kossuth remarked, but ultimately to the benefit of the industry and its customers. This was admitted by László Szabó, Manager Air Freight Hungary at Kuehne+Nagel: “Budapest Airport has made very successful efforts during the last ten years to attract cargo carriers,” he stated. This was confirmed by Celebi Manager, Taner Sari: “Here, everybody is welcome,” he applauded. The Turkish ground handling agent runs 12,500 m² of warehouse space at the airport and will soon be increasing the ground floor by another 3,500 m², once phase two of the cargo terminal complex is completed and operational.
Yet, even in cargo-friendly BUD, there are questions that need new answers. For, example, how to overcome the labor shortage is one of the key issues negatively affecting the activities of forwarders and, above all, ground handlers, leading to longer lead times. Especially “as our business is getting increasingly complicated, requiring more skills from the workforce,” Andre Gál, Deputy CEO of Airmax Cargo Budapest Zrt., pointed out during a panel. His company concentrates on handling and transporting products that require special care, expertise, and precision.
In search of young talent
The labor issue was clearly addressed by industry representatives in several panels at the BUD Cargo Day. The fact that staff shortages are a common problem throughout Europe, does not make it any better. Cargo flows are being negatively affected. The issue goes hand in hand with the urgent need to attract young talent, speakers stated. “How do we inspire them? How should we convey pride and passion to the young generation?”, Menzies Aviation’s Alan Glen asked. “As a cargo handler, you can have the technology, but at the end of the day, it’s a people’s business,” he concluded. “So, treat your staff well, educate them, assign them responsibility if you don’t want to risk losing them,” advised Rob Veltman, VP Cargo Europe, Qatar Airways Cargo.
Ribbon cutting of new e-hub
The Air Cargo Day was rounded off by the opening of a so-called e-hub in the airport's cargo terminal. The Dutch operator, ViaEurope, is a B2C service provider that supports customers with clearance and e-logistics based on technology, big data, and analytics. The BUD e-hub is its third, following similar facilities in Amsterdam and Liege, all complemented by a development center based in Berlin. “E-commerce requires a lot of data. For instance, 40,000 electronic declarations for shipments packed in two containers,” illustrates CEO, Bram Jan Streefland. “Everything that comes in, goes out the same day or night,” he assures, with reference to the process acceleration thanks to superb data quality and flow.
As usual, prizes were awarded at the end of the event. There were seven in total, in seven different categories. One winner, for example, was the agent cargo-partner, which was named Best Performing Forwarding Agent 2021. While six of the seven Accolades were awarded by the airport to customers, Rene Droese and Jozsef Kossuth, who are responsible for the airport’s air freight business, were also honored. They received a prize from the Air Cargo Community Budapest, as a thank you for the ongoing, great support provided to the association by the Airport management in 2021 and beyond.
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