The history of Sharjah on the world aviation map goes back to 1932 when Imperial Airways – the forerunners of British Airways – constructed an airfield here as a stopover en route to India and Australia. The airport has one of the most beautiful terminals in the world with striking architecture that blends well with the cultural environment and natural surroundings. Supplementing its passenger numbers is the rapidly growing cargo volume handled at the airport. For the year 2015 Sharjah International Airport handled 213,348 tonnes of cargo. Sheikh Faisal Al Qassimi, Director, Sharjah Airport Authority, speaks to the STAT Trade Times about latest developments and the plans for the cargo division of the airport.
What are your impressions from Air Cargo India? What signals did you pick up from Mumbai to improve business partnerships and cargo business at Sharjah Airport? The Indian subcontinent in general is a very important market for us and Air Cargo India is a convenient one stop shop to meet and interact with the key players of the industry. The environment is always very business friendly and we are happy in that we established good contacts and networked with likely prospects that we see being part of our future growth.
Could you highlight some of the recent initiatives to enhance the cargo volume handled at the airport and initiatives to improve revenue from cargo division of the airport? Recently, Sharjah International Airport (SIA) introduced an e-clearance cargo portal further enhancing its cargo services facilitating IATA’s e-airway bill initiative for all airlines operating in and out of Sharjah. A joint initiative by SHJ and the Customs Authority, the e-service facilitates the issuance of delivery orders and bills of entry through a single portal reducing thereby streamlining procedures and reducing processing and waiting time, welcome by all customers.
SHJ has been adopting all the latest technologies available for the aircraft and cargo handling. We have state of the art facilities for aircraft loading/offloading, ramp equipment. SHJ airport is the first in the region to use eco-friendly equipment. For cargo handling, we have mechanized equipment inside warehouses for cargo build and break. Recently we have completed corporate audits and Sharjah Aviation Services (SAS), the official & sole ground handling service provider at Sharjah International Airport, has been certified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the “IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations” (ISAGO) accreditation.
Sharjah Airport has an in-house system which passes information to all partner airlines on cargo movement. This helps airline customers to track their shipment, using their own portal. Supporting this, we have introduced unit capability x-ray machines reducing its processing time which the industry has welcomed.
Sharjah Airport is set to become the first airport in the Middle East and Africa to achieve IATA CEIV Pharma accreditation for its cargo and ramp handling operations after successfully passing the stringent audit requirements. a) The IATA CEIV Pharma accreditation programme is an audit system conducted in a standardized and consistent manner, using internationally recognized quality auditing principles based on European Union’s (EU) and UN World Health Organization’s GDPs (Good Distribution Practices). The implementation of the IATA CEIV Pharma accreditation aims to improve product safety, user protection against counterfeit products and provide airlines, healthcare and pharma shippers and manufacturers with a secure, auditable and traceable platform for airfreight, reducing the danger for costly temperature excursions and providing standardized auditing means. b) Sharjah Airport does offer two dedicated (2-8 Celsius and 15-25 Celsius) temperature zones, real-time-controlled and monitored for the storage of approximately 1000 cubic meters of healthcare products. c) Cool dollies with active temperature-controlled and remotely monitored data loggers for your transport between aircraft and warehouse and vice versa, available as optional service. d) Cool bulk cargo trailers with active temperature controlled and remotely monitored data loggers for your transport between passenger aircraft and warehouse and vice versa, available as optional service. e) RFS with active temperature-controlled and remotely-monitored and GPS-tracked data loggers for your RFS transport with roller bed trucks are also available for your UAE and GCC-wide airfreight transportation on request.
For the airport, how significant is the cargo division and what is the level of priority you attach to the cargo division? Cargo has traditionally been of high importance to SIA. SIA has installed and upgraded its facility with new equipment to meet the demands of Sharjah’s diverse airfreight sector. The cargo terminals have been fitted with state-of-the-art equipment which includes a 20-foot-long truck dock capable of handling cargo weighing up to 14 tonnes, dock levelers used for smaller trucks and driven roller conveyors. For plans to increase the existing capacity to handle cargo operations, we are going to work accordingly based on the master plan.
Could you share more details of your sea-air cargo product? What role does the airport play to have this multi-modal mix of the cargo supply chain? As you may be aware, crucial to the success of sea-air is that a viable transfer hub be in place, where the change over from the ocean freight mode to the air freight mode occurs. We realised that we had good grounds to cater to this kind of traffic, and Sharjah, in particular had the pre-requisites of a sea-air transfer hub such as its strategic location, open sky policy and most important the presence of a strong and dynamic freight forwarding community.
Other interesting developments in the trade industry such as the relocation of manufacturing bases to the Near East has brought about a definite shift from the trade patterns and cargo movements of the past. Large volumes of sea-air cargo which originated in the Far Eastern ports, and which were formerly routed via the US West Coast, now originate in the Near East and travel by ocean from ports in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangkok, India, Colombo and Pakistan to the UAE for onward air carriage to the West.
Another important development has been the emergence of new markets in Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The sudden liberalisation of governmental policies, in these states, has led to a flood of imports for people starved of foreign quality products.
What are some of the best things you are doing to keep the cargo division of Sharjah Airport on the top among airports in Middle East? SHJ’s convenient and efficient procedures make it an ideal choice for cargo operators. We are always adopting new changes as per the market demand. Speedy handling, modern track and trace system, special handling and dedicated areas for livestock, perishables, dangerous goods etc. Dedicated aprons and parking bays for freighters. Excellent regional and international connectivity, user-friendly and hassle free handling process.