Schiphol Cargo: Europe’s golden tulip

KLM Cargo

Schiphol is very well renowned for being a food, flowers and pharmaceuticals hub. It is connected with around 322 scheduled destinations in 95 countries, served by 109 scheduled airlines and 28 scheduled freighter operators.

Schiphol Cargo [which handles freight at the airport] reported an increase of 5.4 per cent on yearly tonnage in 2017, with strong demand in the Far East for European goods boosting total figures to 1,752,498 tonnes.

The airport is Europe’s third largest air cargo hub and it experienced an uptick in cargo throughput of 7.4 per cent year-on-year between January and October 2017, with total figures for January to December 2017 reaching 1.75 million tonnes.

Imports to Schiphol Airport from the Far East in 2017 increased by 3.1 per cent to 299,386 tonnes, with exports to the region growing by 8.8 per cent year-on-year to 316,097 tonnes according to figures released by the airport.

Asian market

Asia remains Schiphol’s largest market, with Shanghai, China, the busiest destination. European exports grew 19.1 per cent to 123,950 tonnes in 2017, with imports up 18.2 per cent to 124,992 tonnes.

“We have continued to build on initiatives in 2016 and 2017 with the aim of enhancing the experience of our pharmaceutical, e-commerce, and perishables customers, and our continued commitment to quality is having positive results,” said Jonas van Stekelenburg, head of cargo, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

He said the upswing in e-commerce shipments, both inbound and outbound, was a large contributor to the cargo volumes for this market. “A number of flights transit Europe en route to Asia, and we can attribute a proportion of the growth in our European figures to the developing Asian market.”

Flights to Asia transiting European destinations including Baku, Azerbaijan, and Moscow, Russia, continue to contribute to an increase in outbound figures to the Far East.

Latin American Market

Latin America inbound cargo was up by 21.5 per cent in 2017 to 123,524 tonnes due to a number of additional full freighter flights on the route. Outbound cargo grew by 1.8 per cent to 76,498 tonnes. Import volumes from Africa decreased by 6.6 per cent to 109,751 tonnes due to temporary aeronautical restrictions that have been in place since June 2017.

Imposed by the Kenyan Authorities, the restrictions mean that fewer direct freighter flights are coming from Nairobi, Kenya. Exports to Africa were down 5.4 per cent on 2016 to 51,743 tonnes. Imports from the Middle East increased by 3.4 per cent to 97,789 tonnes in 2017, with export tonnage increasing by 2.1 per cent year-on-year to 122,617 tonnes.

North American Market

Imports from North America were down by 5.6 per cent to 141,714 tonnes year-on-year reflecting changes in regional strategy by some airline partners, whilst North America export volumes were up by 4.4 per cent to 164,509 tonnes. A total of 496,748 Air Traffic Movements (ATMs) flew in 2017, an increase of 3.7 per cent on 2016.

Until 2020, a maximum number of 500,000 ATMs have been agreed between Schiphol Group, the local community, airlines, and the Dutch government. “This is no reason to hold back on our quality initiatives; we need to stay alert, prepare for what is coming, and seek the necessary innovations,” said van Stekelenburg.

Schiphol Cargo handling
Schiphol Cargo

This year (2018) began on a positive note at Schiphol, with an increase in load factors as well as a slight growth in ATMs as a consequence of unused slots. “It is very positive that in this current 2017-2018 winter season, all requested, full freighter slots were granted, and many freighters were able to continue their business at Schiphol with ad hoc slots,” van Stekelenburg continued.

“It is Schiphol’s objective to aim for sustainable growth at the airport after 2020 and airfreight is an important part of that.” On the belly side, he expects the airport to grow in 2018 both in terms of volume and capacity. “The outlook for 2018 – as, globally, we see even more air traffic growth – is a challenging one.

“The slot scarcity has been a challenge for us as a cargo community, and in some cases, cargo stakeholders were under-represented in the various sections of the airport community. In 2018 we will act on this, together with all freighter airlines, handlers, and other logistic service providers,” noted van Stekelenburg.

He further stated that close collaboration with the cargo community remained vital and is a strong focus for 2018. “Together we will continue to pursue our ambitions of better digital information exchange, and further quality improvements in the supply chain, particularly for pharma, e-commerce, and perishables.”

Jonas van Stekelenburg, Head of Cargo, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Van Stekelenburg says the slot scarcity has been a challenge for the cargo community

Schiphol Cargo’s Smart Cargo Mainport programme initiatives such as the Holland Flower Alliance, Pharma Gateway Amsterdam, and European Green Fast Lanes are working towards this goal by focusing on improved information sharing, and optimal landside logistics.

Innovations such as the Compliance Checker, developed in partnership with Cargonaut, are examples of how collaboration within the Schiphol cargo community is shaping its journey towards becoming Europe’s smartest cargo hub.

Van Stekelenburg explained that the Compliance Checker application speeds up cargo flows by detecting data errors in air waybills. The system, developed by Cargonaut and tested by KLM Cargo, uses smart technology; it checks air waybill data and sends automatic alerts when information is not correct. This prevents delays caused by sending non-compliant cargo to customs.

“The Compliance Checker reduces delays in the supply chain and makes it more predictable and efficient for everyone,” he continued. He said it is a generic tool, which benefits the whole supply chain. “KLM is the first company to work with the Compliance Checker.

However, other parties have already shown an interest in the project and we are actively looking for more partners, including shippers and forwarders, to help us expand this project.”

This year, Schiphol intends to further build on this and initiate some new concepts. He mentioned the Smart Cargo Mainport programme as a good example of what can be achieved when the cargo community collaborate, share data, and most importantly, “when we trust each other.” Van Stekelenburg believes that global airfreight will continue to grow in 2018.

However, he is under no illusion that the outlook for Amsterdam in 2018 will be a challenging one on the full freighter side. “Until the year 2020, Schiphol has little room for air traffic movement growth, due to noise limitations that are set by the Dutch government. In the current winter season, we have seen that all requested full freighter slots were in the end granted. That is very positive.”

KLM Cargo handling at Schiphol
Schiphol saw 1.75 million tonnes of cargo last year

Many of the freighters will continue their business at Schiphol with ad hoc slots, he said. The air freight community is positive on reaching a solution with all the airlines serving the airport for the coming summer season (2018).

“If slots will come available, this will help freighter carriers at Amsterdam to keep as many traffic movements as possible up until 2020. After that, we expect full freight intercontinental flights to be able to grow freely again.

“On the belly side we expect Schiphol to grow in volume and capacity in 2018.” Last year, KLM alone was able to expand its network by 15 destinations to meet demand. This brought the total number of KLM destinations to 165 worldwide. At KLM Cargo though, traffic fell by 0.6 per cent over 2017, against a 0.2 per cent decline in capacity. This caused the load factor to drop 0.3 per cent pts. However, a positive trend has been seen in recent months and a degree of recovery in the cargo market.

In 2017, van Stekelenburg said the cargo community was not fully prepared for slot scarcity. “As a community, we will put more focus on our operations. We also realised that in some cases, cargo stakeholders were underrepresented in the various sections of the airport community. We are now seeing positive changes with this, and this will remain an important focus point for the year to come.”

Henceforth, closer collaboration with the cargo community remains vital. A great deal of focus will continue with initiatives such as better digital information exchange and further quality improvements in the supply chain, particularly for pharma, e-commerce, and perishables. “Moreover, we aim to further professionalise our Port Community Platform together with Cargonaut.

Schipol airport
This year (2018) began on a positive note at Schiphol

Besides this we will work closely together with customs to be prepared for a world that is focused on more detail, more efficiency, and more speed,” van Stekelenburg stated. Flowers make a big chunk of the cargo business and understanding the flower supply chain is key to improving it. Most of these flowers travel from farms in Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia and Ecuador, often transferring in Amsterdam on their way to other destinations in Europe and beyond.

A recent visit to the Kenyan Flower Council (KFC), a voluntary association of independent growers and exporters of cut-flowers, taught a group from the Holland Flower Alliance the importance of an internationally recognised quality assurance system for Kenyan flowers, and stressed the importance of creating awareness of how flowers should be handled once they leave so that they arrive as an A-quality product to consumers worldwide.

Schiphol offers 525,000m2 of cargo warehouses, of which 40 per cent have direct airside access. This includes facilities for perishables and pharma/life science cargo in multiple controlled-temperature zones, featuring refrigerated/deep-freezer and heated storage/handling facilities. Over 150 logistics service providers are situated in the airport region, with over 50 per cent of all American and Asian European distribution centres in Europe located in the Netherlands.

Schiphol benefits from proximity to the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam and a decent European road feeder and distribution network. In March 2016, Schiphol and its cargo community launched the Pharma Gateway Amsterdam that offers a CEIV-certified, closed and transparent pharma airport process.

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