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Air cargo handling in emerging markets can be something of a lottery, delegates at the Air Cargo Handling conference in Milan heard last week.

Charting the difficulties of operating into emerging markets, Peter Scholten, VP commercial for Saudia, recalled the occasion when a pilot flying from Dhaka, Bangladesh, reported stability problems. When the aircraft was checked on arrival in Brussels, it was found to be eight tonnes overweight.

He alleged that in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, handling agents on occasion have embargoed flights owing to warehouse congestion, only for the national carrier to continue flying cargo in.

N’djamena, Chad, was imposing charges that were higher than the air freight rate – “and there is almost no communication, so you don’t know what’s happening until the aircraft arrives,” Mr Scholten said.

Meanwhile, Lagos and Kano in Nigeria had imposed a fee of $0.03 per kilo “for no reason”, which added up to a substantial surcharge for a carrier moving hundreds of tonnes in and out.

Yet Lagos had been a real success story, Mr Scholten said, rapidly evolving from having almost no cargo facilities to the point where 20 freighters a day operated from the airport. “Despite local politics, there are opportunities for international handlers. We would love to see the big names out in those markets.”

More recently, the ebola epidemic was having an increasing impact on air cargo operations in west Africa.

Peter Scholten.PNG

 Peter Scholten, VP commercial for Saudia

Saudia Cargo has lost the opportunity to operate several charters into Monrovia, Liberia, and Freetown, Sierra Leone. “If the crews don’t want to fly, you don’t go,” said Mr Scholten.

Other issues frequently encountered in emerging markets included corruption and political instability, said Michel Fiorani, manager of ground handling contracts at Cargolux. “It’s not easy forming relationships when the next time you go there’s someone else behind the table,” he said.

Cargolux employs specialists who conduct a full risk assessment, including evaluating equipment available on site, before considering whether to launch services to new, undeveloped locations. This followed earlier experiences where “handling quality was very bad and you could hardly find an open ear when you raised safety issues”.

The quality of personnel, a consistent theme throughout the conference, is seen as a particular challenge in emerging markets. Fiorani said that despite the difficulty of securing visas, Cargolux’s programme of training staff in Luxembourg had smoothed out many of the problems.


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