maersk air pic

Billund Airport, home to Maersk’s new air freight operation, is set to see flights from Virgin Atlantic Cargo from next month – but the airport has decided not to introduce a community systems (CCS) until volumes have grown.

From August 3 Virgin will pick up Danish and Scandinavian e-commerce shipments from Billund, which were previously trucked around Europe.

“We will be targeting urgent pharmaceutical, automotive and perishable cargoes destined for the USA, Africa, Israel and the Indian Subcontinent,” said Steve Buckerfield, head of cargo sales for the carrier.

The carrier added: “The partnership will see the Danish air freight export industry receive more direct connections to the USA, as Virgin Atlantic Cargo supports the airport’s ambition to grow its air freight business and establish the cargo industry at Billund Airport.”

Despite growing numbers of stakeholders, one of which is the mighty Maersk, Billund Airport said last month that it would not immediately create a CCS, the IT backbone of major hubs.

Airport CCS reduce arguments between stakeholders and improve efficiencies, such as truck waiting times. Initially introduced in western Europe, where many major airports compete in a relatively small space, CCSs are now also popular in North America.

Kale Logistics, whose solutions are spreading fast around the world, has just signed up Vancouver International Airport to add to its portfolio of 14 airports, with five in India and four in the US.

But Billund, home to Lego, and which is expecting to double tonnage in the next 20 years, said it did not need a CCS yet.

“Airports all have a community, the question is whether it needs to be formalised,” said Kaspar Andreas Nissen, market and route development manager, speaking at Tiaca’s recent event in Amsterdam.

“We don’t necessarily need the community formalised; it wouldn’t make sense for us right now. We need to see the benefits, and it takes a lot of resources. Our activity level doesn’t make up for that. It’ll only [be viable] when the operational needs are there.”

But Steven Polmans, former head of Brussels Airport Cargo and now VP business development at Abu Dhabi Airports, disagreed.

“The benefit is that you have a lot of things in place before you need it, and it won’t be long till you do need it. It takes a long time to set up.”

Airports are the best-placed partner to initiate a cargo community system, said Torsten Wefers, VP marketing and sales for Liege.

“Airports are neutral to a certain extent and not a threat to any stakeholders.

“We strongly believe we need one,” he said. “We have quite an active community, and everyone talks about everything, and we need to channel that and it needs to be structured, so we have one voice.”

Schiphol, which initiated CCS in Europe, said a CCS “keeps you sharp”.

But Anne Marie van Hemert, head of aviation business, warned that “you can go too quickly for the community”.

She added: “You can have stressful subjects which force you to start opposing each other, but you hear each others’ point of view. There are a lot of challenges representing the interests of all the members, it makes it a juggle.”

Budapest has a wider community system, including multimodal logistics associations and shippers, and the airport heads the aviation group.

Providers of systems are becoming increasingly competitive. Brussels uses Nallian, which also has contracts with airports including Liege, Dallas Fort Worth, Vienna and Luxembourg. Schiphol acquired full ownership of Cargonaut, which developed its CCS, in 2020.

Kale perhaps has currently the biggest network as it also works at ports, where it is eying multimodal solutions for its platforms. Today it said it had joined the International Association of Ports & Harbors (IAPH), adding tech expertise to the 280 members, in a bid to accelerate standardisation.

From January 2024, the single window for data exchange will be mandatory in ports.

Kale has also focused on one of the best efficiencies for CCS platforms – trucking. In an interview last month at Air Cargo India, Kale CEO Amar More touted the benefits of Kale’s truck slot management module, designed to shorten truck turn times.  The company claimed that a pilot run of this application at New York JFK saw a substantial improvement in truck wait times – down up to 66% for exports and 48% for imports.

While Kale is poised to add Chicago Rockford Airport to its fold in the coming days and eyeing Kenya’s new airport development project, sources say it is also in talks with other major airport managers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Sharjah and Canada for CCS implementation.

“Currently, we are under the confidentiality clause and hence, cannot identify the names of new airports we are engaging with,” a Kale official told The Loadstar.

But one place where its port and airport system is unlikely to be welcomed is Maersk’s very own air hub – Billund.

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