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An outbreak of “joined-up thinking” has hit the logistics industry, and it’s a move that could make Belgium a more attractive option for shippers and forwarders.

The port of Antwerp, with open data platform NxtPort, and Air Cargo Belgium, via data sharing platform BRUcloud, are to work together on multimodal solutions.

“Big pharma shippers and forwarders transport both via sea and air,” explained chief of Air Cargo Belgium and Brussels Airport Cargo, Steven Polmans.

“If tomorrow we develop one solution, or an integrated solution on both flows in one application, it will make their lives easier than having two applications to use.”

He stressed, however that the focus would not be on making an air-sea connection.

“Some of the applications we are making are dealing with problems that are exactly the same in the port, such as truck waiting times, and the airport, for which we could together develop one application, such as a slot booking system.

“The benefits are the same, no matter if it is port or airport. But it is not about an air-sea connection.”

Mr Polmans acknowledged that the fact that the two open data sharing platforms were developed by the same company, Nallion, “helps and facilitates the process”.

NxtPort CEO Daniel Lievens added: “There are differences between ship and air transport, but increasingly there are more similarities. Both logistics and mobility require innovative multimodal solutions.

“Since the Flemish ports and the national airport share the same cargo customers, companies are looking for efficiency and cost savings. Many of the logistics processes are largely the same, such as customs procedures for goods that must travel the airport and harbors for import and export.

“If we find ways to make the process more efficient and less time-intensive, everyone wins.”

Mr Polmans added that joint development would also help the Belgian logistics industry to talk to government agencies, such as customs.

“It becomes easier …to develop applications to facilitate the administrative process and work towards a single window – which is basically what the platform is.”

It marks a step towards a more joined-up logistics industry, something which has been lacking as different modes of transport remain isolated, despite having the same customers and facing similar problems.

Mr Polmans said the different modes could learn from each other.

“Other benefits we see include increased creativity by working together, having common brain-storming sessions and learning from each other. So even if you are only doing air cargo, you will benefit from this cooperation by having more apps available, quicker and cheaper.”

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