If a single task pending completion would measure 10 cm in height, a yardstick of 2 meters would still hardly suffice to illustrate the many assignments GertJan Roelands has to master. They range from fleet issues to product realignments, SAF utilization programs, and partnership or network arrangements. Their overarching theme is to create optimal customer value in the most sustainable way, which must guide all decisions, GertJan Roelands, Senior Vice President Commercial of Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo, emphasizes. CargoForwarder Global (CFG) spoke with the executive during the recent TIACA event in Miami. This week, CFG brings you Roelands’ reflections on his cargo airline’s environmental policy.
Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo’s decarbonization trajectory is one of the most ambitious in the industry and stands high on Mr. Roelands’ and his team’s agenda. It includes all sectors reaching
from air transport, cargo ground handling, fleet renewal programs, road feeder services, to joint actions with customers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions all along the supply chain, illustrates
the manager. On this subject, he sees his cargo airline taking leadership, evidenced by many practical examples shared with CargoForwarder Global. “For us, it is not a goal in itself to be in
pole position, we intrinsically believe that we must take effective measures to reduce the environmental footprint of airfreight. We can only do this in strong collaboration with all stakeholders
in the value chain.” The main tool to achieving the respective Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, both mid and long-term, is increasing the
share of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as an alternative to fossil-based conventional fuel to power the turbines of the carrier’s fleet. In comparison, SAF offers 80%-90% lower life-cycle
carbon emission savings but is still 3 to 4 times more expensive.
Using SAF is also a gesture of solidarity to poor countries
Demand for these fuels is permanently on the increase. The more efficient SAF that is produced, the more likely prices will come down. The EU plans to set SAF's blending quota at 60% by 2050. If other countries will follow suit remains to be seen, but pressure is growing. In a survey published by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact, it is said that one ton of CO₂ causes damages of at least 140 euros. Global warming primarily affects poor countries which are threatened with a drastic collapse of their economic power in the coming decades.
According to a study published in 2022, the five largest CO₂ emitters - China, the USA, Russia, Brazil, and India - have caused combined economic damages amounting to six trillion USD since 1990 – worldwide.
Against this background, the switch to SAF fuel intended by AFKLMP Cargo and other carriers is not only a contribution to climate protection, but also a gesture of solidarity to those countries that have hardly any financial means to cushion the economic and social consequences of global warming.
Embracing a large variety of actors
Even more so, since the carrier’s decarbonization scheme reaches much further. It includes an offer to freight forwarders and shippers to join forces in reducing CO2 emissions. As it seems, this is turning out to be a successful initiative, because support is growing fast. According to Mr. Roelands, more and more shippers are urging their forwarders to switch to SAF. AFKLMP Cargo-trained “Ambassadors” promote the implementation of environmental goals internally, reaching out to customers as well.
Meanwhile, almost 50 companies have now joined the SAF program, the executive confirms. In addition, he points to a new feature introduced last month to the carrier’s booking portal. It offers customers a digital option called “goSAF” when booking shipments, enabling them to purchase the volume of SAF needed to fly the goods. A CO₂ calculator determines the expected greenhouse gas emissions of the shipment caused by fossil fuel burn and calculates the alternative SAF costs. According to Mr. Roelands, since its introduction, this option has exceeded expectations and has already been chosen more than 1,000 times, considerably increasing SAF-consumption based on single consignments. “We do notice that shippers are mainly successful in reducing their carbon footprint in air freight if they allocate budget for this and consider this an investment in sustainability, supporting to reach their SBTi targets instead of only seeing this as logistical cost.”
A term to remember: Hydrotreated vegetable oil
In addition to pushing low emission fuels up front, the carrier has committed to making its ground operations carbon neutral by 2030. As an example, GertJan Roelands cites an agreement with Dutch Logistics company, Jan de Rijk, to jointly operate a new Long Heavy Vehicle (LHV) between Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt Main Airport, capable of transporting up to 6 ULDs on behalf of AFKLMP Cargo. It is powered by a new BioFuel based on hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), which is also known as “blue diesel” and can reduce CO₂ emissions by as much as 89%.
Finally, the freight carrier’s environmental efforts are complemented by a fleet renewal program, aimed at lowering emissions by 20%-25%. Its centerpiece is the firm order of 4 A350Fs, with options for two additional aircraft, depending on market demand. According to plane maker, Airbus, the kerosene burn of the aircraft is 25% less compared to any other freighter of its size, thus meeting the emissions targets mentioned by Mr. Roelands. The same applies to four A350Fs ordered by the shipping company CMA CGM, which will increase the fleet to six units, while two B777Fs are already flying for their new cargo unit.
The capacity of these freighter aircraft will be managed by AFKLMP Cargo and CCAC based on the existing AFKLMP Cargo sales and distribution model and a ‘one voice to the customer’ principle. The cooperation will offer an extensive combined freighter network growing to 16 – 20 aircraft per 2028.
Part 2 to follow.
It will focus on
- New trends in European air freight
- A la carte cargo products
- KLM Cargo and Amsterdam’s controversial slot policy
- Network issues
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