Future oriented thinking at Schiphol Airport

The global corona pandemic changed so much. Certainly in (global) logistical streams. In the air cargo sector, we saw a greater reliance on freighter capacity arise due to the loss of a significant portion of belly capacity. We also saw different shippers, new chain players and a shift in cargo types. In the past two years far more medical equipment/aids and essential spare parts for just in time production lines (automotive, high-tech) were being transported by air. As: while some logistical modalities collapsed under the pressure brought about by corona, generally speaking, air cargo remained a reliable form of transport.

But also, there were, and still are, major challenges for air cargo. In the second half of 2021 we saw congestion in places in the air cargo chain at Schiphol which we could not explain away as being due to increased volumes. By quickly shifting gear and bringing in a few practical measures the community managed to keep the cargo flow at Schiphol moving. But, at almost the same moment – around the formation of the new cabinet – a political discussion ensued about the future of aviation in the Netherlands. A not always well-substantiated and rational discussion, but, ultimately, an emissions deficit and noise restrictions threaten to exert significant pressure on Schiphol. And even if solutions are found, it appears that the demand for slots at Schiphol in the near future is always going to be greater than the slots on offer. The question is, therefore, how should we work with this scarcity? For ACN two things top the agenda for the coming years. Firstly, how the allocation of scarce space should be managed and, secondly, how to optimally use the space that there actually is.

Sharpen the selectivity policy

With regard to the allocation of the scarce space, we feel that close attention must be given to which flights. The air cargo chain is a relatively complex logistical chain in which the interests of the chain players are, per se, not always the same.

For years there has been a sort of selectivity policy drawn up by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, but this outdated policy needs to be looked at once again with fresh eyes. A sharpened selectivity policy should take more account of both costs and benefits for the total Netherlands economy, where environmental taxation would be shown as an expense and business investment climate would firmly stand on the benefits side. From the selectivity angle, you could reason that sufficient space for cargo should be made available at Schiphol. An exploratory inventory of the airlines showed that there is annual demand for 20,000 to 25,000 slots for freighters. Less than 17,500 slots would make it difficult for Schiphol to protect its strong position as a cargo hub. More than 25,000 slots could perhaps create demand but that demand is not present at this moment in time.

20,000-25,000 slots. That is four to five percent of the total number of slots per year and wherein half of Schiphol’s total air cargo volume is flown. The rest being carried in the belly of passenger aircraft. The Air Cargo Monitor of the Erasmus University shows that air cargo accounts for more than 20% of the added value of Schiphol. From a selectivity viewpoint, a basic mathematical sum. As long as the selectivity policy has not been adjusted, a Slot Pool for cargo aircraft at Schiphol is the only means of ensuring that Schiphol retains its position as cargo hub.

Extensive digitalisation is a nobrainer

The air cargo chain is a relatively complex logistical chain in which the interests of the chain players are, per se, not always the same. In terms of chain processes and the timely provision of data, the sector is not a frontrunner. There are major opportunities here for us, as the Schiphol cargo community, to distinguish ourselves. Certainly as, post-corona, a scarcity of slots must be expected once again, so supporting process optimalisation via far-reaching digitalisation really is a no-brainer. To make optimal use of the space that we do have. Last year far-reaching steps were taken in this area. The coming years must focus on finishing what we have started. The steps to be taken are clear and broadbased: Digital Pre-notification forms the foundation and from 1 January 2022 will be standard at Schiphol for local export cargo. In 2022 the implementation of Automatic Nomination will quickly follow and Smart Import will be introduced with which it will be known who, what and when a pick-up will take place. A lot of work is also being done on making the Road Feeder flows more transparent and on a Digital Handshake (transfer). These are the building blocks for door planning at the handling agents. In addition, an (electrified) Milkrun ensures that there is a minimum of unnecessary journeys.

In our view, the blueprint for Cargo City Schiphol. An optimally equipped terrain for the handling agents and inspection services where cargo can be brought and picked up by appointment and in accordance with planning. Without long waiting times. Are you too early or too late? Or are some details unknown? Then you present yourself at the Cargo City parking area to sort things out and wait until a handling agent indicates you are welcome to proceed. Optimal process transparency and clear rules that apply to all players at and around Schiphol and which lead to speedier processes and turn-around times. We’re committed to that.

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