“A decline in freight throughput of 8% in 2022 is not what we wanted to see,” admits Geert Aerts, Chief Cargo & Real Estate Officer Brussels Airport. At the same time, however, he emphasizes that the decline is in line with the results of other mixed airports handling cargo and passengers alike. He sees great potential for the airport's cargo business thanks to a master plan focused on upgrading infrastructure, fostering close cooperation with industry associations, and further leveraging digital innovation between Brucargo, freight handlers, forwarders, airlines, and trucking companies.
First turning to the 2022 air freight throughput reported by the airport: Cargo volumes were down by 8% compared to 2021, totaling 775,721 tons. Flown volumes fell 7%.
There are three main reasons for the decrease: The share of cargo aircraft serving BRU in 2022 dropped by 13%, while the integrator segment, which had been reliably growing for years, even fell by 13% year-on-year.
At the same time, passenger traffic recovered. Yet, the additional capacity offered in the airlines’ lower decks could not compensate for the tonnage losses in the two aforementioned segments.
That is the current situation. Regarding the medium and longer-term forecast on freight development at Brussels, optimism prevails, states the executive. And these are his main points:
Firstly, the modernization of the infrastructure is in full swing. Three large warehouses called BCC1, BCC2, and BCC3, are currently being built in the center of the cargo area, the Brucargo Central zone. Construction work was preceded by the demolition of obsolete buildings which had become unproductive due to their outdated internal layout. The entire project will be completed in 2025, offering users a total of 35,000 m2 of handling space. Mr. Aerts points out that the three warehouses meet the latest sustainable and environmental standards, heated or cooled by green energy. They optimize Brucargo’ s landside processes, enabling the faster flow of goods and improving its ecological footprint. One building block in the airport’s environmental effort is the recent agreement to supply Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) through existing NATO pipelines to power aircraft and ground vehicles (CargoForwarder Global reported).
Second reason Brucargo will be going forward is the existing digital network spanning across all users, from airlines to ground handlers, forwarding agents, customs, and truckers. The data-sharing platform, jointly developed by provider Nallian and Brussels Airport, and rolled out together with Air Cargo Belgium, has not only proven its worth but will be further fine-tuned, assures Mr. Aerts. The digital data exchange simplifies processes and speeds up the flow of goods.
Brussels Airport has invested a lot into the Bru Cloud application and the eco system built around it which has already paid off. Thanks to this foresighted initiative, the cargo sector’s productivity has increased, errors were reduced, and Brussels has become a preferred airport for many customers because of the process efficiency, says Mr. Aerts.
Third reason is Brussels Airport’s focus on class rather than mass, when it comes to products. For example, pharma, perishables, e-commerce, and animal care are at the top of Geert Aerts and his team’s service agenda. For years, Belgium has been a leading logistics platform for the pharmaceutical industry, with producers and their forwarding agents located practically around the corner. To keep up with the latest developments, Brussels Airport is strongly committed in organizations such as Air Cargo Belgium, Pharma.Aero, TIACA, and some other industry associations.
Brucargo, like the entire airport, is particularly committed to the pan-European Stargate initiative, a Green Deal project supported by the EU, led by Brussels Airport. “Brussels Airport takes the lead in the development of innovative solutions to create the green airports and aviation of the future,” is stated on the website of the Stargate Consortium. The club consists of 22 European partners, including airports, airlines, mobility & knowledge institutes, as well as local authorities. Stargate received a 24.8 million euro grant within the European Green Deal to research and demonstrate solutions before the end of 2026. The Stargate members’ joint mission is to develop, test, and deploy a set of innovative solutions making aviation and airports significantly greener and more sustainable. “We are very committed to the project because we support the goals one hundred percent and try to live up to them in daily processes jointly with our partners,” exclaims Geert Aerts.
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