Swissport moves 9,000 tonnes of fresh roses for Valentine's Day

Flower Corridor has transformed handling of fresh-cut flowers, connecting Nairobi with key locations in Europe

Swissport Flower Corridor moves 9,000 tonnes of fresh roses for Valentines Day

(Photos: Swissport)

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With Valentine's Day approaching and the global demand for fresh roses is at its peak, over 9,000 tonnes of love blossoms travel safely through Swissport’s industry-leading Flower Corridor - from the fields of the Kenyan highlands to Europe.

Every week, 400 to 500 tonnes of cargo, 85 percent of which is fresh flowers, pass through Swissport's expansive 10,400 square metre cargo centre in Nairobi, Kenya, says an official release. "This volume increases by 50-55 percent in the run-up to Valentine's Day. The facility, which is certified by IATA's CEIV Fresh, meticulously ensures the safe handling of general cargo, perishables, and temperature-sensitive goods, with a particular focus on flowers - a major export from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport."

Edwin Musungu, Head of Cargo Services, Swissport Nairobi says: “Every year, Swissport successfully handles millions of fresh-cut flowers between January and February, aligning with peak demand during the Valentine's Day season, which begins in late January. For the current year, we anticipate to handle approximately 9,000 tonnes of flowers, a slight decrease from previous years attributed to aircraft capacity constraints with carriers prioritising the lucrative Chinese market due to the overlap with the Lunar New Year in 2024.”

Swissport's Flower Corridor initiative, a cold-chain innovation, has transformed the handling of fresh-cut flowers connecting Nairobi with key locations in Europe such as Liege, Brussels and Amsterdam as well as markets in the Middle East and the Far East, the release added. "Swissport’s modern air cargo centres allow the speedy handling of perishables in a temperature-controlled environment. The innovative Flower Corridor seamlessly connects farmers, airlines and forwarders. Major carriers, including Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, British Airways, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group, China Southern, and Egypt Air, place trust in Swissport's innovative process and expertise. Together, they create a collaborative ecosystem aimed at extending the shelf life of delicate flowers by approximately seven days and significantly reducing waste."

The flowers' journey at Swissport begins with the delivery truck docking at the hermetically sealed gateway, which connects to the temperature-controlled perishables centre, the release added. "After immediate unloading, flowers undergo temperature screening to ensure the cold chain's integrity. In the centre, flowers are assembled into unit load devices (ULDs) based on carrier bookings with optional vacuum cooling before transport to the cold room for aircraft loading. The facility boasts a cutting-edge 110 pallet interconnected cold room, which spans 750 square metres and provides seamless access from landside to airside. A two-pallet main deck vacuum cooler with the power to cool down two main deck pallets from 24ºC to a crisp 2ºC in 22 minutes completes the state-of-the art perishables centre. Installed in January 2023, it ensures the freshness of perishables just before departure by maintaining low temperatures in the warehouse. The integrated infrastructure enhances the efficiency of the logistics process and also allows major agents to utilise the cooler for delayed or offloaded shipments. "

Musungu adds: “It's not just about shortening handling times; it's about mitigating the risk of temperature impact on sensitive cargo. The primary objective is to ensure that every single rose arrives at its destination as fresh as the moment it was harvested, creating consumer happiness and improving the carbon footprint.”

Dirk Goovaerts, CEO, Swissport CEMEA and Global Cargo Chair says: “Since the Flower Corridor was launched, Swissport has been working on perfecting the cold chain solution to provide high-quality services that protect the integrity of fragile flowers and maximise returns for customers. We're excited about the future of air cargo handling in Kenya and are working with local cargo communities as we continue to enhance our solutions."

Swissport handled roughly 4.7 million tonnes of air freight in 2023 (2022: 4.8 million) with around 60,000 employees at 286 airports in 44 countries on six continents, the release added.

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