The cargo slots issue at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is gaining prominence among politicians. Convincing them of the need for a well-defined approach is yet another matter, says Managing Director, Maarten van As of Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN).
The fact that the issue has caught the attention of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), is due to intensive lobbying by ACN, says Mr van As. “You will remember that Mark Harbers, the
minister for Infrastructure and Water Management, has decreed to cut the present 500,000 movements a year cap at Schiphol to 440,000 by the end of 2023, without any concertation with the airline
industry. Firstly, we do not agree with this shrinkage proposal. Secondly, our reaction to this was that this is to be accompanied by a specific ruling on slot reservations for full
“Given the imminence of this movements cut, a solution will have to be found quite fast, supported by a firm legal basis. We think the latter can be found in the capacity declaration issued by Schiphol twice a year. This assesses the exact capabilities of the airport on different levels, such as security, safety, take-off and landing spots, etc.”
Cargo as a segment
“Up to now, these assessments are, of course, maximized on the basis of the 500,000 movements per year. We still maintain that it is imperative to look at the full freighter segment as a separate segment in these assessments.”
“In essence, Minister Harbers understands our concerns, but he claims that the European Slot Resolution does not allow this, as fragmentation would be equal to discrimination.”
ACN takes a different view, says Mr van As. “We argue that passengers and cargo are two different segments. Not distinguishing between them would lead to an insufficient use of infrastructure, which would also be at odds with EU legislation.”
ACN’s arguments were discussed with Members of Parliament as well as in a few technical briefings at the House of Representatives. The discussion was supported by a short movie and also attended by the Slot Coordinator. In the meantime, ACN pursued its efforts in search of a firm legal base, but the minister sticks to his official “Europe says no” point of view.
Supported by a few political parties, both from the majority and the opposition, ACN hopes and expects a motion to be put forward, stressing the importance of air cargo for Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and the economy of the Netherlands as a whole. “Even the Green Party endorses this to some extent,” the Managing Director maintains.
ACN advocates a balanced approach in which ecology and economy can be reconciled. “But starting by introducing a stricter cap on movements and then see to assess the environmental impact, is putting the cart before the horse. This view is advocated by Europe as well. You have to demonstrate that, to reach the set goal -which is noise reduction - all the other possibilities have been looked into. In the so-called Balanced Approach that has to be followed.”
Maastricht is no Plan B
Mr van As recalls of the path the organization has set out in collaboration with the airport. “The ‘Local Rule 2’ consists of three elements: giving a larger part of unused slots to cargo operations, reserving cargo operations in the capacity declaration, and modernizing the European slot Resolution. The latter is, of course, a slow process. Our point of view is to give the member states more space to handle this regulation, but this is something we cannot wait for in the present context.”
The strategic partnership between the airports of Schiphol and Maastricht is unlikely to offer a plan B to the imminent slot problem, Mr van As thinks. “It is very important that Maastricht is recognized as a full-fledged airport in the Netherlands, and that knowledge and know-how will be interchanged. On the other hand, Maastricht is very limited, having only a few flights a day. That will not be enough.”
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam
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