Middle Eastern airlines are riding high on favourable global economic cues and connectivity advantages. Jassim Saif, Vice President at Emirates SkyCargo, in a conversation with Lionel Alva, provides key insights on the changing dynamics of the air cargo industry amidst intense competition.
What according to you is the short term and long term future for air cargo carriers?
The future for the air cargo industry in India is promising. Over the past 10 months, from April 2015 to January 2016, air cargo demand out of India in terms of tonnage has been growing. Freighter capacity in India has also been increasing in tandem with growth on the passenger side. In the last five to six years, most airlines have enhanced their aircraft to wider body and larger aircraft in India. This automatically increases belly capacity. Consequently, the demand for freighters is there and we are well positioned to fulfill this demand
How do you think the air cargo market is evolving and what are the key challenges that you see?
According to IATA’s Airline Industry Forecast (2014-2018), India will be amongst the top 10 largest international freight markets by 2018. It is also projected to be the second fastest growing market, after Iran, with a CAGR of 6.8 percent and adding over 600,000 of total freight tonnes. This bodes well for the air cargo industry in India. To fully tap this positive trend, further enhancements in areas such as infrastructure, regulation and cargo processing, would need to take place. For example, higher dwell times currently for export (48 hours), imports (96 hours) and transhipment (48 hours) at Indian airports, compared with other world class airports (6-12 hours), results in increased transaction costs and delays. A reduction in these dwell times would significantly improve cost and efficiency for the air cargo industry.
What markets do you perceive as being the most promising?
Emirates has a very large presence in the African continent and we fly to 27 destinations in North, Central and South Africa. Africa is a big market for us and we are carrying exports of several key commodities from India to African markets, including pharmaceuticals and garments. The advantage we have is our connectivity especially to the Asia-Pacific regions as we can connect key African markets to those in Asia. Infrastructure is also coming up in terms of warehousing facilities and transportation. Our challenge is to ensure that we meet the different requirements of each country in the African continent.
What are some of the complexities involved in animal transportation abroad?
The transport of live animals requires expert and sensitive handling and full compliance with the rules laid down in national laws, the IATA Live animal regulations (LAR) and other regulations such as CITES, an inter-governmental treaty aimed at protecting endangered wildlife. When it comes to an actual shipment, various considerations would also need to be taken into account, from the type of animal, breed, age and possible temperature requirements.
First and foremost, we need to know what breed the animal is. There are certain animals that are not fit for transportation. Certain animals are endangered and cannot be exported or imported. We are very conscious of the illegal trade in endangered species and consequently vet every request thoroughly and if in doubt we would rather decline than to carry the shipment.
What regions do you think hold the potential for most growth and how do you envisage the future of your organisation?
We expect to see healthy growth in all of our key markets in the coming year, especially in regions like Africa, the Middle East and North America. Besides growing our network, Emirates SkyCargo will continue to grow our capacity as the airline receives new aircraft.