Benchmarking against International standards

Though Indian air cargo sector is on the growth path in terms of infrastructure and technology; however there is a lot which it can learn from global best practices at airports like Dubai, Hong Kong or Singapore, when the situation is compared on both sides. Jasleen Kaur

Possibly the most advanced cold storage is the Dubai Flower Center, a multistory facility located next to the Dubai Cargo Village. It is designed for the storage and processing of flowers imported primarily from Africa for both the local market and for distribution to the region. The initial phase on this center is designed for an annual throughout of up to 180,000 tonnes of flowers. The perishable handling area in Dubai Cargo Mega Terminal is about 4623 square metres floor space, with 3927 square metres of 218 individual cells of temperature zones.

Nairobi is another airport, which has a pair of on-airport refrigerated storage facilities operated by the ground-handling subsidiary of Kenya Airways, as well as a stand-alone cold storage operated by DHL on the airport and Swiss port off the airport. These are highly automated. While, the 9,000 square metre perishable centre, for instance in Cargo City, Frankfurt Airport, offers 20 different climate zones.

Changi air freight terminals offer dedicated/specialised perishable handling facility that is temperature monitored and humidity controlled to cater to different types of requirements and a wide range of commodities.

While talking about India… it is a long way to go as it has just stepped into this. Perishables are at a nascent stage of growth in the Indian air cargo sector, when it is compared to international scenario. This is one of the examples when the development at the Indian airports is compared to international airports. There are many segments where the Indian market really needs to buck up.

“India seemingly has all the ingredients to be one of the world’s great air cargo centers. Rapid growth of international trade, a huge manufacturing engine and a population of more than 1.2 billion all bode well for the industry. However, for a variety of reasons, India has not realised this great potential,” said Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at KPMG India, adding, “Participants in India’s air cargo sector agree that inadequate infrastructure in the country is a major obstacle, followed by cost inefficiencies and the need for governmental and tax reforms. But they are also optimistic that the needed changes will eventually happen.”

In 1960, Singapore was not much richer; its per capita income at purchasing power parity was two and a half times India’s. In 2010, it was 15 times richer; this is a country of 276 square miles, which had little beyond a good harbour to boast of in 1960. It handled 531 million tonnes of cargo in 2010; all India’s ports together handled 560 million tonnes. All India’s airports handled 75 million passengers in 2013; Singapore’s Changi airport by itself handled 30 million. This is the perfect example of the pace of growth. Prabhakara Rao, CEO, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), said, “We need to adopt international standards. Hong Kong airport is one of the biggest airports working on infrastructure. Networking is important. Logical understanding of the industry is required. Initiatives like Make in India and e-commerce are a welcome move.”

“The transformation of Indian airports into international cargo hubs with the adoption of a more systematic approach, observing international standards adopted at airports worldwide and this can only happen when the government and industry work together,” added Rao. The civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju at a recently concluded convention at PHD Chambers of Commerce in New Delhi, said, “The future is bright for the air cargo sector. Infrastructure and airlines have great role to play for developing cargo hubs. Now it is the right time to translate ideas into actions. We (the government) are eagerly looking for ideas from the industry players to work together. Let’s work together to turn our dreams into a reality.”

But to begin with a change, there is a need to look at the prevailing challenges and dwell time is the one.

Dwell time – A compare in picture
The lack of infrastructure has led to high cargo dwell time which almost every agent is facing. And it has become a major concern for them. India seems to be lagging behind that its compared with the international airports sounds not realistic at all. “Comparison of dwell time of Indian airports with hub airports like Hong Kong, Dubai etc are not realistic because bulk of their cargo throughput in these hub airports are transshipment cargo which does not have to undergo customs clearances unlike the situation in India where the transshipment component is an insignificant proportion of the total throughput handled,” shared Cyrus Katgara, partner, Jeena & Company.

Tushar Jani, chairman, Cargo Service Centre, said, “The floor area at the truck dock is the first entry point for offloading the cargo before shifting for clearance. A report received from the users of cargo terminals indicate that dwell time for trucks waiting outside the air cargo complex ranges from 8 to 12 hours in one of the major gateway airports during peak seasons. In today’s competitive environment it is ironic that export cargo vehicles are not off loaded due to lack of adequate space availability. Limited number of truck docking bays for imports also is said to severely limit the ability of the cargo terminal operator to clear the cargo on time resulting in delay and accumulating daily back log of undelivered cargo.”

“Number of truck dock bays in air cargo terminals of Hong Kong, Dubai etc is several times the facilities prevalent in Indian airports. More importantly, access to truck dock areas need better road connectivity which is missing in some of the major metro airports. If existing roads accessing the air cargo terminals cannot be widened, options should be explored to provide additional access from the city side to relieve congestion,” Jani added.

“It is also essential to ensure that freighters are provided with adequate dedicated facilities and parking bays in close proximity to improve operational efficiency. Necessary infrastructure and upgrade in infrastructure is required in key international airports like Chennai so that they can service the new generation of large cargo airplanes,” mentioned Dubey.

Suffice it to say here that if we aim to create cargo hubs in our country for which there is no doubt about its potential it would then be appropriate to benchmark with the best facilities that are already present in those cargo hubs in the international airports like Singapore, Dubai or Hong Kong