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Fears are mounting that Schiphol’s freighter slot crisis will continue into the winter season after “differences of interpretation” over a Local Rule for cargo.
In the Dutch parliament on Tuesday it was revealed that interpretative differences between the ACNL (which is responsible for slot allocation) and the government, was delaying implementation.
One source told The Loadstar formal confirmation of Local Rule had been expected within a fortnight, but the timing was now in doubt.
There was “no insight on what the actual differences in interpretation are. The government said it was ‘too complex’ to explain”.
After the debate, the head of Dutch shippers’ association Evofenedex, Rogier Spoel, told The Loadstar: “This is surprising because the local rule was extensively discussed among all the airlines in the coordination committee and all the airlines voted in favour.”
Evofenedex has now issued a newsletter calling on all parties – carriers, government and ACNL – to meet “as soon as possible” to discuss the issues. The association wants the process accelerated so the rule is in place before winter.
“Members of parliament are also worried that the delay will also slow down implementation before the start of the winter season on Schiphol,” said Mr Spoel. “The question is also if the slot coordinator has already acted upon the possible implementation or is waiting on approval before taking any action.”
Under the local rule, the historic slot rights for freighter operators – which generally operate on a more ad hoc basis – would be secured, better protecting cargo carriers and maintaining their position at the airport.
Also, the rule would introduce the concept of yielding, in which unused slots (due to cancellations) can be re-used, giving full freighters priority.
Alongside issues of interpretation, speculation has also arisen that a pushback may be coming from the ministry itself, which allegedly fears falling foul of EU competition law.
Having hit its 500,000-slot capacity last year, Schiphol was forced to implement the EU’s 80:20 rule, which sparked a dispute with AirBridgeCargo, which lost slots as a result.
Dutch carriers were threatened that their access to Russian airspace could be blocked unless the slots were returned, but a compromise was reached.
Concerns surrounding slots comes amid mixed blessings for the Dutch gateway’s cargo operation, with strong growth in the China and Latin American markets marred by notable dips in full freighter volumes. First-quarter figures from Schiphol showed a 2.4% fall in overall freighter volumes for the three months to March, while belly cargo also fell some 1.6% year on year.
Traditionally strong markets like Europe, Middle East, and North America recorded what Schiphol termed a “slight” drop, although North American imports actually fell 12%, with exports down 5%.
But China – the airport’s largest country market – volumes grew 2.1% over the three-month period and Latin American exports surged 31%, with 10% growth in imports.
Director of aviation marketing, cargo and customer experience Maaike van der Windt said an increase in air traffic movements did not “compensate” for a reduction in full freighter traffic.
She added: “This has had a knock-on effect in our first-quarter results, but there are, nonetheless, underlying positive growth trends in cargo business from China and Latin America that we hope to build on over the coming year.”