The Dutch Parliament supports the creation of a separate slot pool for cargo operations at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. The final decision lies with the responsible minister, Mark Harbers, who is weighing the idea against European legislation. Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN) hopes for an imminent solution, but Brussels has the final say.
Separate pool for cargo slots
Just before Christmas, the Netherlands’ House of Representatives (‘Tweede Kamer’) supported a motion put forward by one of its members, Daniel Koerthuis of the liberal party VVD. The motion called for an investigation into the feasibility of a separate cargo slot pool. According to ACN’s Managing Director, Maarten van As, Schiphol can remain a prosperous cargo hub with 20,000 dedicated cargo slots per year.
“We are very pleased with the support of the VVD as well as other parties such as CDA and PVV,” says Mr. van As. “The support of the Chamber is impressive. Of course, everything stands or falls with the Minister’s decision. He says that he considers this support very important. Nevertheless, he claims that the current European legislation does not allow the creation of a separate pool, as this would be considered a form of discrimination.”
Based on legal advice, ACN argues that a solution may be found in Schiphol’s capacity declaration. “Schiphol declared that it has some spare capacity in its passenger business as it is hardly capable of managing 480,000 passenger slots in terms of check-in, parking stands, security checks, etc. The remaining 20,000 slots can be used for cargo operations, as they do not have an impact on the passenger capacity management,” Mr. van As holds.
On the other hand, there is the proposed reduction of the number of movements from 500,000 to 440,000 by the end of 2023, but this is very complex issue, the ACN official recalls.
Walk to Canossa
In fact, Dutch Minister Mark Harbers, a member of the Liberal Party VVD, may have put the cart before the horses, he thinks. “The European legislation is based on the ‘balanced approach’ concept, which states that you cannot try to reduce noise by just capping capacity. Before doing so, you have to prove that you have also tried all other options while demonstrating that these have not worked.”
“Over the last few years, measures have been taken in this respect, but only on an ad hoc basis. Even if the aim – fighting noise by reducing the number of movements - has become political, the process should have gone the other way round.”
The discussion is not without a Kafkaesque touch. “The Minister understands the position and the importance of air cargo, but he claims that his hands and feet are tied by the European airport slot legislation. He has to weigh the Schiphol capacity declaration against the European regulation. Eventually, the decision will have to be made by the Slot Coordinator, but he has to comply with the Minister’s decision.
Apparently, the European legislation does not allow setting apart a pool with a minimum number of slots. But according to Mr Koerthuis, a maximum number of slots in a pool fully complies with the legislation.
Time is running out
As yet, Mr. van As has no clue as to when the issue will be settled. “We are competing heavily with a lot of other issues on the Minister’s agenda. On the other hand, two years ago, the government presented its position paper regarding the update of the European slot regulation. It consisted of three important points: sustainability, network quality, and the position of air cargo. In other words, they were pre-sorting to our demands.”
The ACN helmsman holds that the Dutch air cargo industry cannot afford to wait another 3 to 5 years for the European legislation to be adjusted. “We all agree on this matter, we just have to find a solution in the short term.”
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam
We welcome and publish comments from all authenticated users.