Abu Dhabi invests $100m forNextGen agriculture in the desert

ABU DHABI: With investment totaling AED367 million (USD100 million), four agri-technology (AgTech) pioneers will build new facilities in Abu Dhabi dedicated to developing next generation agriculture in arid and desert agriculture.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) is providing the funding to AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ and Responsive Drip Irrigation (RDI), to establish new R&D and production facilities in the emirate, turning sand into farmland, solving complex global agriculture challenges and expanding the profile of local food producers, the Emirates news agency WAM reported.

Under this partnership, each firm is tasked to solving regional and global food security challenges.

“Four global AgTech innovators are joining our mission to turn sand into farmland. In line with Abu Dhabi’s long-term vision to grow the sector, ADIO partners with companies that have innovation at the core to help ensure long-term success. Each of these companies will add to our already established agriculture ecosystem, and benefit from our plentiful land, natural heat, competitive energy prices and access to research universities and skilled talent,” said Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi, Director-General of ADIO.

AeroFarms will focus on next-generation genetic phenotyping and organoleptic research while also tackling the challenges of desert agriculture from its new 8,200-sqm R&D center in Abu Dhabi. The center will be the largest indoor vertical farm of its kind in the world and will employ a projected 60 plus highly skilled engineers, horticulturists and scientists.

Madar Farms, a home-grown UAE AgTech innovator, will build the world’s first commercial-scale indoor tomato farm using only LED lights in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, KIZAD. The company is also set to scale up the commercialization of microgreen growing to help provide a consistent and predictable local food supply that responsibly uses the region’s natural resources.

RDI is developing an innovative irrigation system to transform water usage in UAE agriculture and conducting research trials to increase crop yields in sandy soils and non-arable land. While locally-based company RNZ will set up a state-of-the-art R&D centre to research, formulate and commercialize ‘agri-input’ solutions that will help to grow more with less.

TIACA Chairman finds comfort in mountain biking and a nice meal with family & friends

It’s not easy running an international trade organization while keeping your job at one of the busiest cargo airports in Europe, especially in challenging circumstances like now.

Steven Polmans, Chairman of The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), who is also the Director for Cargo & Logistics at Brussels Airport, is no doubt a busy man with great responsibilities.

Taking time off from his busy schedule, Polmans who was also the first Chairman of BRUcargo, Brussels Airport’s cargo community, shared his thoughts with Air Cargo Update about the industry and a bit of his personal life.

“While a lot of my colleagues were home as part of a temporary unemployment plan, I did indeed have the feeling I was working harder than ever before in the past few weeks and months. Time flew by. But with the support of a great and dedicated cargo team at Brussels Airport, we managed to get things done. They supported me more than enough so

I could also spend the necessary time with TIACA,” Polmans said.

While the global crisis brought by the Coronavirus pandemic crippled many industries, air cargo is very much alive and busy transporting vital goods like medical supplies, food and pharmaceuticals. But it’s also facing challenges with the loss of belly capacity with many passenger flights were still grounded.

“This loss in capacity for air cargo needed us to be very creative and flexible in setting up new routes or increasing existing ones by full freighter or passenger aircraft operated as freighter. Making governments understand the challenges this is causing but also the importance of air cargo has been crucial,” the TIACA chairman explained, adding that their group has aligned with other organizations “to keep air cargo high on the agenda.”

“When we are talking about aviation, most people and associations start discussing the passenger side. It was and will be our job to make sure cargo remains high on everybody’s agenda as it is part of this larger ecosystem. Many are representing a part of the logistical chain, such as airlines or airports or forwarders. We unite them and we defend the air cargo industry in total. Nobody else does this,” he said.

With uncertainties still looming as to when the world will be back to normal, many questions are still lingering.
“First of all: How will passenger traffic grow again in the years to come? Because the growth of passenger traffic will bring us increased belly capacity to restore our network. Another big parameter will be the overall economy.

How will we come out of this crisis and how quickly will everything go back to normal? Slower economy will result in lower demand and need for air cargo. And other factors that come in place are, for example, near shoring, the focus on reducing dependency on too little countries or companies in your sourcing and supply chain, environment, etc.,” said Polmans.

Polmans finds comfort in simple things in life. “If you would ask my loved ones, you would probably get a reply there is no time where I am not busy. Therefore, no long list of hobbies and activities for me. When not working, I like to relax. Do the day- to-day stuff at home, enjoy life with friends and family and preferably a nice meal or, in summer, a great barbeque, do some reading or catch up on some movies or series.”

Polmans did a lot of group sports in the past, but that disappeared with his constant traveling and busy schedule; he now bikes on a regular basis to keep fit and healthy.

“Sport disappeared from the agenda. But since a few years ago, I have been trying to jump on my mountain bike on a regular basis to keep the physical condition to a certain minimum level,” he said.

And when things go bad, Polmans opts to stay positive. “Where others see problems, I often see challenges and opportunities. It keeps me going and motivated. That, in combination with a great team of people I work with, makes these “troubled times” interesting, as difficult the situation sometimes is or might be.”

Training the best new drivers with the new Mercedes-Benz Actros as a driving school vehicle

There’s a shortage of skilled truck drivers across the world and motivating people to seriously consider becoming professional truck drivers must have the right environment and tools.

The importance of driving schools is well and truly in the spotlight in this context says leading global truck manufacturer Daimler Trucks, after all, they are exactly where potential new drivers can be convinced to take their first practical lesson and subsequently get into a career behind the wheel.

And to do that, they don’t just need motivated and motivating trainers but also ground-breaking training trucks. That’s why the Verkehrsakademie Münsterland (VAM) driver training school in Ibbenbüren has put its faith in the new Mercedes-Benz Actros. Since January, trainees can practice their inter-city, motorway and night-time drives behind the wheel of the top model from Mercedes-Benz Trucks.

Depending on whether the lesson concerns driving licence classes C or CE, the driving school’s Actros 2545 is configured either as a rigid vehicle or as a drawbar combination. An additional centre seat allows the driving instructor to sit close to the learner – something of particular importance during the first few lessons. In front of the centre seat, the footwell houses a full set of instructor pedals – just like on the co-driver’s side – to ensure the instructor can intervene where necessary.

Plus, budding drivers and participants in advanced training courses can also learn how to use all of the assistance systems which are available for the new Actros: from the new MirrorCam to the extended Predictive Powertrain Control cruise control and transmission management system, as well as the equally new Active Drive Assist which enables partially autonomous driving.

Learners are enthusiastic about getting to grips with the assistance systems

“As soon as the participants have become familiar with these systems, they’re generally very excited about them and quickly see the advantage of using them,” says Daniel Autmaring, Junior Manager at Verkehrsakademie Münsterland.

“Especially the younger generation tends to be tech-savvy and willing to try out the assistance systems with enthusiasm. Plus, they also feel very much at home when they get into the newly designed cab of the new Actros with its two digital cockpit displays. That’s why the new Actros training vehicle has a lot of potential to attract young hopefuls sustainably into a driving career – a job which now offers talented beginners very good perspectives.”

Daniel Wichmann is an especially good example of this. The 25-year-old completed both his CE-class driving licence and his professional driver qualification with VAM.

Today, he works as a driver for the affiliated transport company and also coordinates the maintenance of the driving school’s fleet of seven trucks – all of which are from Mercedes-Benz. Wichmann was the first employee to recently participate in a company-internal advanced training course on the new Actros, headed up by one of the company’s experienced driver trainers.

As part of this, the young driver was particularly enthusiastic about Active Drive Assist, for example. The system enables partially-automated driving in all speed ranges. One of its capabilities is to bring the truck back into its lane in certain circumstances by means of a corrective steering intervention and can thus offer the driver a greater level of safety.

“Assistance technologies like Active Drive Assist help my colleagues and me to do our job even better. But as to whether this type of system will one day replace us drivers… I can’t see that happening. We are and will remain completely responsible for what the vehicle is doing,” said Daniel Wichmann.
Only the best-qualified drivers can sustainably deliver top-level service

Around 150 budding drivers train with the school each year and then there are also around ten times more who take part in their advanced training courses. The explicit aim behind these: to create professional drivers for the transport sector and to keep the standards constantly high. After all, only companies with the best-qualified men and women behind the wheel will be in a position to offer sustainably high-quality service, says Philipp Stegemann, Commercial Director at VAM.

From the Atego to the Actros and even the Arocs, VAM has consistently put its trust in trucks with a three-pointed star for many years now: on one hand because of the sheer presence of these vehicles within transport companies, and on the other because of their sophisticated technology and high level of reliability.

“With the new Actros, we now have another excellent instrument at our disposal. The numerous new or further improved assistance systems facilitate the daily work of drivers. And they are proof that the new Actros is equipped with tomorrow’s technology today already,” said Stegemann.

According to the 31-year-old, MirrorCam is also a prime example of this. On the new Actros, it has replaced the outside mirrors with small cameras on the left and right of the roof frame. That offers the driver a greater field of vision through the side windows.

From the outset, trainees experience how much help that can be when driving up to junctions and roundabouts, when maneuvering or when driving around tight bends. The camera images are relayed in real time to two monitors on the A-pillars and, just like a regular mirror system, are split up into main mirror and wide-angle views.

Among the tasks of the instructors is explaining to future drivers the distance lines shown in the MirrorCam display and demonstrating how they can help better gauge the distance to vehicles and objects behind the truck.

Verkehrsakademie Münsterland: Growing since 2008

From driving instructors to employed professional drivers like Daniel Wichmann, Verkehrsakademie Münsterland has around 40 employees.

Founded in 2008, the company has since continued to grow. Besides offering driver training for all classes of vehicle, ranging from light motorcycles to heavy-duty trucks, VAM also offers a range of advanced training courses.

In the commercial vehicle sector alone, the program includes partial qualifications for goods transport, load securing and hazardous goods. But the target groups include more than just the drivers themselves. Even specialist staff and managers – for example fleet managers or driver trainers – from SMEs within the transport sector take part in the training courses.

The teachers and instructors at the training school predominantly train customers from the Münsterland region, but also regularly deliver courses to people in regions which are further afield. The company has access to approved training rooms in all German states.

The new Actros is “International Truck of the Year 2020”

The new Actros doesn’t just impress customers during daily operations, but is also well liked by specialist international juries. For example, the new Actros was voted “International Truck of the Year 2020” by Europe’s leading commercial vehicle journalists from 24 countries.

The committee of Europe’s most prestigious accolade highlighted in particular the advances made in terms of safety and assistance systems as well as in the field of connectivity.

New features in the Actros include Active Drive Assist which enables semi-automated driving in all speed ranges, the improved Active Brake Assist 5 emergency brake assistance system, the fully digital human-machine interface in the form of the new Multimedia Cockpit, and the Predictive Powertrain Control intelligent cruise control and transmission management system. Source—Photos & text: www.daimler.com

DHL Next-Generation Wireless Trend Report explores the future of IOT in logistics

A world where everyone, everything is connected everywhere is coming

The evolution of wireless networks and the future of the Internet of Things (IoT) in logistics will profoundly change the way people are connected with different wireless technologies dominating the new trend, DHL pointed out in its recently released new Trend Report titled “Next-Generation Wireless in Logistics.”

Even before the current COVID-19 crisis, wireless communication technology was making headlines. Much of the recent interest has focused on 5G mobile data networks that are being rolled out in many countries. 5G promises a host of benefits for end users, businesses, and telecommunications systems operators alike, including higher speeds, greater capacity, and tailored services for a new generation of smart connected devices.

Beyond 5G, progress across a wide range of different wireless communication technologies is now creating new opportunities for logistics to improve visibility, enhance operational efficiency, and accelerate automation.

Well-known technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth, and lesser-known technologies like Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites have been enhanced for industrial use. These next-generation wireless technologies will enable the next step in the communication revolution, moving towards a new world in which everyone and everything can be connected everywhere.

Building a fully connected future for logistics

In a recent survey of 800 supply chain leaders conducted by DHL, 60% of respondents stated that visibility of their supply chain is currently inadequate. The top three key challenges among the respondents are achieving true end-to-end visibility, lack of a single centralized platform to drive IoT initiatives, as well as fragmented data collection from inherently heterogeneous supply chains.

The top three priorities identified shaping visibility strategies are end-to-end transportation visibility, inventory visibility, and the implementation of supply chain data analytics. 75% of respondents reported they intend to implement at least one next-generation wireless technology in the near future to achieve their visibility goals.

“After having transformed asset-light industries, the digital revolution is now rapidly changing more asset-heavy industries, from automotive and manufacturing companies to healthcare providers,” says Markus Kückelhaus, Vice President Innovation & Trend Research, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.

“Our own sector, logistics, will be both a major beneficiary of the IoT-enabled digital revolution and an enabler of it. Although some parts of the logistics industry are already smart and connected, next generation-wireless is set to usher in the next wave of IoT in logistics.”

In a future where everyone and everything is online everywhere, three key things will become possible for the logistics industry:

  1. Total Visibility: Every shipment, logistics asset, infrastructure, and facility will be connected thanks to widely available networks and inexpensive high-performance sensors. This will enable highly efficient automation, process improvement, swifter and more transparent incident resolution, and – ultimately – the best service quality for both B2B and B2C customers.
  2. Wide-Scale Autonomy: All autonomous vehicles, whether indoor robots or logistics vehicles on public roads, rely on ultra-fast, reliable wireless communication to navigate and traverse their worlds effectively. While these solutions are on the rise today, next-generation wireless will be one key enabler driving their widespread use and moving the world to autonomous supply chains.
  3. Perfecting Prediction: With so many things online, the volume, velocity, and variety of data that we collect will triple the big data already being generated today. The continued progress of machine learning systems and artificial intelligence paired with the ultra-low latency of next generation-wireless means that data-driven prediction systems for forecasting, delivery timing and routing may no longer be constrained by latency and performance of wireless networks.

While much of the forecast growth will be achieved using technologies that are already familiar to many of us, truly universal connectivity will require approaches that can offer new capabilities, including higher capacity, greater reach, faster speeds, better energy efficiency, and lower costs.

“Large-scale connectivity is an extraordinary technological and social success story. While IoT is not new in logistics, with 20 billion connected devices already in use globally, this story is still only just beginning. A myriad of technologies are simultaneously advancing at a rapid rate, which are also cost effective and increasingly ubiquitous. They are now becoming more accessible which suddenly opens up vast opportunities for the development of applications and use cases at an unprecedented rate,” explains Matthias Heutger, SVP, Global Head of Innovation & Commercial Development, DHL.

“Our Trend Report illustrates each of  these next-gen wireless technologies, and outlines and compares them, their limitations as well as practical application. Furthermore, we highlight how the potential associated with these technologies is fast becoming a fundamental part of the supply chain of tomorrow.”

Next-generation wireless is a broad portfolio of technologies that promises to deliver against those diverse – and often competing – objectives. DHL’s Trend Report includes a specialized section on how the latest wireless technology works, highlights some innovative projects underway in the industry, and provides implementation guidelines for supply chain organizations. Source: www.dhl.com

India sees logistics industry to bounce back first

The Coronavirus pandemic shook India at its core with a lockdown that ended the movement of more than 1.3 billion people, the largest in the world.

Covid-19 cases are rising amid more tests being done. The lockdown may have averted a tragic pandemic crisis but it has also caused massive exodus of migrant workers from India’s major cities, unprecedented job losses and never before seen hunger among the poorest of the poor.

Whatever measures governments may take to contain the virus, there is no doubt whatsoever that it is going to take months and months for the economy to get going. Almost all sectors have collapsed but there’s one sector that experts say is likely to bounce back ahead of the other industries—logistics.

The logistics sector in India is tottering and there is going to be a lot of operational re-jigs when life gets back to normalcy and no one can forecast when that is likely to happen. However, the logistics sector will bounce back earlier than most other sectors. Transportation (air, land and sea), storage, warehousing and allied sectors will swing into intensified operations once the lockdown is lifted.

There is an urgent need for the movement of goods, particularly essentials and medical supplies. The movement of people, however, is likely not to be a priority with social distancing now the new normal.

Over 29 million jobs lost

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said its latest estimates indicate a worsening impact from the COVID-19 crisis in the Asia-Pacific region.

About India, IATA said the pandemic is expected to potentially impact 29,32,900 jobs in the country’s aviation and its dependent industries. Passenger traffic has declined 47 per cent, while cargo operations are happening for medical and other essential supplies. However, there seems to be a huge gap.

The airline industry in India used to clock over 3,000 flights per day, has seen only 490 flights operate since the lockdown came into place. The 490 flights as of May 8 is thanks to the government’s initiative called ‘Lifeline Udan’ which allows air carriers to fly to deliver medical and other essential supplies within the country and overseas too.

Lifeline Udan

Lifeline Udan, an initiative of the Government of India, to make available healthcare and other essential supplies to battle Covid-19, has been doing a great job and that is likely to continue with increased intensity. Under Lifeline Udan, airlines such as Air India, Alliance Air, Indian Air Force and private carriers, have been operating flights carrying medical and other goods. As of May 8, as many as 490 flights have been deployed by the carriers (289 of these by Air India and Alliance Air).

Cargo transported on May 8 was 6.32 tons taking the total amount of cargo transported to around 848.42 tons. Aerial distance covered by Lifeline Udan flights till date is over 4,73,609 km.

Helicopter services including Pawan Hans Ltd have been operating in Jammu &Kashmir, Ladakh, Islands and North East region transporting critical medical cargo and patients. Pawan Hans till 8th May2020 have carried 2.32 tons of
cargo covering a distance of 8,001kms.

Domestic cargo operators SpiceJet, Blue Dart, Indigo and Vistara are operating cargo flights on a commercial basis. SpiceJet operated 916 cargo flights during March 24 to May 8 carrying 6,587 tons of cargo. Out of these, 337 were international cargo flights.

Blue Dart operated 311 cargo flights carrying 5,231 tons of cargo. Out of these, 16 were international cargo flights.

Indigo has operated 121 cargo flights during April 3 to May 8 carrying around 585 tons of cargo and including 46 international flights. This also includes medical supplies carried free of cost for the government. Vistara has operated 23 cargo flights since April 19, carrying around 150 tons of cargo.

Air bridge established

Under the initiative, a cargo air-bridge was established with East Asia for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and Covid-19 relief material.

The total quantity of medical cargo brought in by Air India is 1,075 tons. Blue Dart has uplifted medical supplies of around 131 tons from Guangzhou and Shanghai and 24 tons from Hong Kong.

SpiceJet has also uplifted 205 tons of medical supplies from Shanghai and Guangzhou and 21 tons medical supplies from Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) said that the combination of Covid-19 related travel restrictions and an economic downturn would result in a virtual washout for Indian aviation in the first quarter of FY21. “With FY2021 set to be an exceptionally challenging year, all segments of the aviation value chain will need to immediately start planning for much smaller scale operations, supported by serious enterprise-wide restructuring,” CAPA said in its report.

Despite these efforts, the economic fall-out of an economy hit by the virus has been inconceivable as the sector is
both organised and unorganised, leaving millions of people unemployed.

According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the sector employs over 40 million people and contributes $200 billion plus to the national economy.

The government did not have a foolproof plan (no government would have had any plan for the virus has been unprecedented in both magnitude and its deadly spread) to keep the essential supplies going, even while containing the spread of the virus. E-commerce players such as Amazon and Flipkart had to suspend their logistics services for sellers on its platform.

Logistics depends on manufacturing

As people were not allowed to move (till guidelines started evolving on who can and who cannot), the supply chain of about 25,000 to 30,000 supermarkets were adversely affected, according to the Retailers Association of India.

When supplies started moving with hurdles (permits, non-availability of vehicles or drivers, blockades etc), there have been delays in deliveries, shipments lying in the warehouses etc. And we are talking of essential supplies and not even talking about other goods which may be in different stages of transit.

As manufacturing came to a halt, the requirement for transport has come down drastically, creating an unimaginable scenario to deal with. As manufacturing and logistics sectors go hand in glove, their coming back on track, first depends on manufacturing to commence and that is not going to happen in full flow for quite some months.

Going forward, one of the things that nations are learning is how to evolve in such a crisis and one of the answers is by using of technology.

Harpreet Singh, Partner at KPMG states that the Indian logistics sector is largely unorganised and most of the players do not have a backup, recovery plan or intermitted operation plan. India is majorly driven by a traditional approach of trucking, loading and unloading and material handling.

Lack of modernised tool and equipment to disinfecting the goods/supplies before delivery are going to be additional investments that they have to put in place and it is not going to be an easy proposition. But this will happen and become the new norm.

$234 billion losses during lockdown

A Barclays research estimates India’s loss of economic activity could be as high as $234 billion in the lockdown period, resulting in zero per cent GDP growth this fiscal.

In a media interaction, R.S. Subramanian, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, DHL Express has said
“Ensuring nationwide access to essential commodities and medical supplies can only happen with a strong logistics and supply chain backbone. It is imperative that regulators and law enforcement authorities recognize logistics industry as essential services to keep critical supply chains up and running.”

In almost all countries where there is a lockdown, in the USA, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Middle East and Far East, express and logistics companies like are given the status of an essential services sector, and are able to manage and sustain the supply chain of manufacturers,. healthcare and pharmaceuticals sectors. This is the need of the hour. “Deployment of additional customs personnel, faster clearances at airport courier and cargo terminals to move out the on-hold shipments will help clean up the channel for critical shipments to flow faster.”

The Indian government says it’s doing its bit, but the situation is such that no amount of effort is enough as this pandemic is not just unprecedented but also a great lesson for all sectors, to be prepared for the worst and this appears to be the worst.

ECS Group – Advancing with active role towards recovery & the future

The Coronavirus pandemic has so far infected nearly 7.5 million and killed over 420,000 across a broad spectrum of people worldwide. Beyond creating a global health crisis, it plunged the world’s economy to unimaginable lengths with recovery still uncertain until a Covid-19 vaccine is produced.

The months and weeks of lockdowns in major cities worldwide to prevent the spread of the virus pushed business activities to fully stop resulting to financial upheaval, massive unemployment and a deep global recession.

World Bank forecasts the global economy to shrink by 5.2% this year, the deepest recession since the Second World War, with the largest fraction of economies experiencing declines in per capita output since 1870. The global aviation industry appears to be the worst hit with billions in losses.

The blow is hitting hardest in countries where the pandemic has been the most severe and where there is heavy reliance on global trade, tourism, commodity exports, and external financing, World Bank noted, adding that while the magnitude of disruption varies from region to region, all countries have vulnerabilities magnified by external shocks.

Amid this, one industry, air cargo, seemingly underrated despite accounting for one-third of the world’s global trade, took the center stage during the pandemic, reinventing itself to quickly supply the world with vital medical supplies, food and other necessities.

Adrien Thominet, CEO of ECS Group, the largest integrated GSSA worldwide with over 95 subsidiaries and 153 offices spanning across over 50 countries, in an exclusive interview with Air Cargo Update, shares his insights on the pandemic, the air cargo industry’s expanding role and the Group’s increasing involvement in sustaining people, communities and livelihood as the world fights off its biggest crisis.

The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the global economy in unimaginable ways apart from endangering the lives of billions, infecting over 7million and killing more than 420,000 worldwide.

How bad was its impact on ECS Group and your clients’ operations and how are things now that countries are slowly easing up lockdowns and restrictions?

We are currently living in a time of unprecedented crisis with terrible impacts on our personal and professional lives. This period has been a time for introspection, for questioning, and for rethinking the way we do business. In short, our relationship with the future has changed.

From the beginning of the crisis, we at ECS Group very quickly put in place processes to ensure the health and safety of our employees all over the world, which was our top priority. Alongside this, we focused on business and on the best way to support our customers, who were also impacted. In particular, we concentrated our efforts on yield management and clearly, our home-made tools have been a real asset in this.

By working together hand in hand, focusing on the field, we have been able to limit the terrible consequences of the crisis as far as possible. We are suffering together, but it is also together that we are finding solutions. The responsiveness of our teams all over the world in this regard has been truly exceptional, as has been their commitment.

The future is of course uncertain, and it will depend to a significant extent on the sector’s recovery, which itself is intrinsically linked to the recovery of the world economy. But we believe in ourselves, and we prefer to move forward, suggesting new solutions to our customers in order to avoid simply passively responding to a situation that we cannot control, playing instead an active role in the recovery. That is why we are launching new services aimed at our customers based on our experience, which will help them to get back on their feet and to build a sustainable future for their cargo activities.

What is your hope for the air cargo industry and the aviation sector in general in light of what’s happening?

I always prefer to take action rather than simply hope. Of course, our aim must be for a quick recovery and government support, coordinated at a global level. But we cannot just wait passively, simply ‘enduring’ events.
We have used recent weeks to make progress, to learn from this crisis, and to reflect on how to emerge from it, which is just as crucial as the time of crisis itself. Economically, this pandemic has been a disaster for many air cargo stakeholders, but it has also helped us to understand our weaknesses – and so we have worked on addressing them.
The new services that we are launching are in response to these issues. Professionalizing each aspect of cargo-related activities by outsourcing them to dedicated experts as part of focused organizations is at the core of these new services.

Do you think the pandemic has changed people’s perception about the importance of the air cargo industry not just as an economic enabler but also as life-sustaining with millions of medical supplies that it transports regularly? Please elaborate.

Yes, that’s something we’ve seen. Air freight has revealed itself to be absolutely vital in many countries where medical equipment was not produced locally and the speed of this method of transport made all the difference.
The industry, once little-known, has taken centre stage. The pandemic has highlighted our ability to reorganize ourselves extremely quickly when faced with a crisis. Our field expertise and the agility and determination of our teams have been remarkable.

For example, to fight the pandemic, the GAC team in China, working with the GAC Germany team and our Cargo Ops Expertise team, launched the first charter flight from Shanghai early on in the crisis. Since then, over 350 charter flights have been operated all over the world.

We pay tribute to the determination of all of our teams in the field and their ability to organize new routes and new connections to respond to the urgent situation and meet people’s needs. In this light, while we can’t describe every operation that has been conducted, all of them reflect the desire to never give up.

All of our teams have been mobilized, and all over the world they have been extremely responsive. The most connected routes in particular have been within Asia, from China to Europe, and also from Europe to Central America. In particular we have transported medical equipment of all kinds, of course, but we have also ensured logistics continuity (transporting lots of perishable goods and postal products and of course purely industrial operations).

This leads me to another point: while we as air cargo stakeholders were already aware of it, it seems to me that governments and the general public have become aware of the impact of cargo on the world economy.

Around the world, ECS Group teams have worked extremely hard. We’ve worked in very close partnership with 16 airlines. Together, we have been able to adapt ourselves and convert passenger aircraft into ghost flights. In two months, we have worked on over 350 flights to help fight the pandemic and ensure the survival of people and their local economies.

Different countries and pharmaceutical firms are on a race to find the vaccine for COVID-19. Once a vaccine for the virus has been developed, billions of vials ought to be transported worldwide, how prepared is the global air cargo industry in your opinion to undertake this task?

We all hope that a vaccine will be found as quickly as possible. In my view our entire industry has demonstrated its ability to react, faced with the need for urgent transport. Once again, air cargo will be the only industry capable of meeting people’s needs in terms of vaccines, while ensuring safety and compliance with relevant health regulations (temperature control, etc.).

To take the example of ECS Group, we have proven our charter expertise during this pandemic. It is one of the ways in which we have been able to meet very high demand from our customers during this period, whether they be freight forwarders or airlines.

The pandemic has prompted many companies to focus more on tech-driven systems to keep their operations. Please share with us the latest tech innovations that ECS has introduced or thinking of having in the future.
Yes, this crisis – especially with the lockdown that it required – has revealed a number of issues in our industry and in particular the need for new technology.

Firstly, it has become clear that perfect management of all aspects of logistics linked to pharmaceutical products is essential in order to be able to play a crucial role in this fight against the pandemic. In addition to the fact that all of these new technologies are powerful tools that facilitate our daily work, they are also essential in managing activity.

And beyond these technical aspects, technological tools have also shown themselves to be a key ally in the daily management of cargo activities. The priority in situations such as these is to simplify operational agents’ work by allowing them to respond to demand in record time, optimize holds, and work in an even smarter way.

Having access to sophisticated analysis, planning and pricing tools has allowed us to remain effective. Our customers have been able to count on us at a time when cost savings were absolutely essential at all levels.

And it’s from that very standpoint that we have worked closely with our customers during this time to refine our tools to ensure they meet their concrete needs. Even before the crisis, our aim was to implement e-booking platforms. In recent months, we have been able to develop effective decision-making and strategy tools that are perfectly in line with our customers’ new expectations. And as such, we are all coming out of this stronger.

Apart from doing GSA, your company is also into full cargo service. Kindly share with us in details the different services that ECS Group is offering to its clients worldwide.

That’s right. We don’t simply offer our customers the traditional GSA services – we anticipated the changes to our industry and created new services as a result. We have long offered GSSA and TCM services. We work to ensure we always meet the needs of our customers better and more comprehensively by creating new solutions that suit the changes they are undergoing.

Before the crisis, we had already modelled the new services we wanted to offer our customers, which were totally unique coming from a GSA. This truly extraordinary period in the true sense of the term has allowed us to go even further and to incorporate issues linked to the crisis in order to constantly better respond to our customers’ needs.
As I said earlier, professionalizing all cargo activities appears more essential than ever before. You need digital experts who are capable of creating custom-made digital tools tailored to your own needs. You need to maximize your airline’s cargo revenue via bespoke analyses and a customized pricing policy.

You need to manage quality, safety, security, customs and all other purely operational aspects. In today’s world, a traditional GSA can no longer meet these needs. Expertise and flexibility are essential. This is the model that ECS has adopted.

Please share some positive thoughts that people/ companies should consider while facing this pandemic.

The adaptability of our teams in the field and of airlines, the determination to never give up and the spirit of togetherness between stakeholders in logistics chains and within our subsidiaries all over the world all prove that we are absolutely on the right path.

Progress is in our sights. We have had no other choice than to take an introspective look at ourselves. Now, we are continuing with our quest. We will need every person who is a driving force, especially young people.

The amazing capacity for resilience of the younger generations is an asset for our industry – anticipating, building, inventing and starting over to create essential solutions. I have every confidence in these driving forces and in their beneficial impact within our industry. Let’s allow them to create their own norms.

The second edition of the NexGenLeaders challenge is currently being prepared and we too will be NexGenLeaders! Whether it’s sustainable development, technological developments, more powerful solutions, or skills, all necessary transformations are initiated by the same passion: progress. And that’s where ECS is clearly positioning itself. ECS Group: Made in Progress.

ECS Group Invests on Digital Innovations

In the digital world, everyone can be connected to anyone, anywhere and in real time. And in the transport industry, this is extremely important. Cognizant of this growing trend, ECS Group ventured into three new services harnessing the power of new technologies.

Cedric Millet, ECS Group Strategy and Digital Officer, explained these new services—the Cargo Digital Factory, Cargo Commercial Planning and Cargo Ops Services—are perfectly suited for their partners and clients, all conveniently housed under the single roof “freight firm.”

CARGO DIGITAL FACTORY – Cargo Digital Factory seizes the opportunities offered by digital technology, and tests, invents and builds process analysis and optimization tools as well as tools to develop and implement digital solutions. The experts from this laboratory offer innovative and tailor-made solutions to boost our clients’ performance and optimize their revenue. Today, a number of tools are already operational, and others will be launched very soon.

First of all, our in-house teams have developed a state-of-the-art next-generation market intelligence and reporting system called Apollo. Apollo is a real-time system that combines market data and internal information, and is used for sales planning, reporting, performance monitoring and performance improvement purposes.

Secondly, for the airlines that we represent under a TCM (Total Cargo Management) contract, we have developed a tracking system (called PathFinder) with best-in-class functionalities, including advanced notifications and real-time geolocation of shipments during flight.

Today, PathFinder is one of the best tracking systems within the airfreight industry. For these airlines on TCM contracts, we have also implemented a range of solutions that ensure seamless connectivity with the various industry players, including handling partners and customs authorities.

The Group is on the right track in terms of digital and has made the necessary investments in the right specialists, with one objective: to innovate and perform on behalf of our airline partners.

CARGO COMMERCIAL PLANNING – It is no secret that all airlines are primarily looking for revenue optimization, and this is exactly what we are offering them with the “Cargo Commercial Planning” service, supporting traditional GSSA commercial activities.

We have designed tailor- made commercial planning processes (pricing, revenue management) combined with performance management processes (sales steering, load factor improvement, destination mix optimization), supported by digital tools developed by our Cargo Digital Factory.

We are extremely proud of our state-of-the art business intelligence and reporting system (called Apollo), which gives us real-time visibility of results and allows constant monitoring of principals’ performance.

Apollo also helps us identify performance improvement drivers, a key factor in improving our airline customers’ results.

Our Cargo Commercial Planning service also covers activities related to budgeting & forecasting and interlines management. It offers fantastic support in terms of structure and in terms of analysis, monitoring, and therefore decision-making processes.

CARGO OPS SERVICES – A team of experts dedicated to managing airlines’ operations and quality, safety and security functions.

This in-house service is one-of-a-kind and is capable of managing all of the following: Audits, quality and safety management systems, laws and regulations, and all aspects linked to network operations: ULD management, customs procedures, management of suppliers and contracts, handling manuals, handling supervision, and more.

Our teams have all the necessary certification, are constantly given regular training, and work with the very latest technology.

Caribbean Airlines uses its passenger aircraft for cargo only charter service for the first time

Caribbean Airlines utilized one of its Boeing 737-800 passenger aircraft for a cargo only charter service, on in May 2020, for the first time in the airline’s history.

This flight was part of the airline’s recently launched charter service, and was used to move essential supplies from Guyana to Cuba.

The new service was introduced to serve islands experiencing reduced cargo capacity due the closure of borders to commercial passenger flights due to COVID-19.

The charter service operated under strict regulatory procedures, adhering to established best practices for aircraft cleanliness and sanitation to ensure the safety of the airline’s crew during the current pandemic.

Marklan Moseley, general manager – Cargo and New Business, Caribbean Airlines said: “These are very challenging times and we are sensitive to the need for trade and commerce to continue within the region. We continue to support the supply chain within the Caribbean and are offering our charter services which supplements our current weekly scheduled freighter flights.”

Cargo Connections to hold next gathering in Croatia

Due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, Cargo Connections has taken the decision to cancel its meeting due to be held in Phuket in November and instead hold its next gathering from 20–22 October 20-22, 2021 in Croatia.

The venue is the Hotel Croatia Cavtat, a leading five-star resort and conference center enjoying spectacular views of the open sea and just 5 km from Dubrovnik airport. To date, 68 CEOs and senior managers from 34 countries are due to attend. These bookings will be automatically moved to the event in Croatia.

Virgin Atlantic increases its cargo only flights by 35%

Virgin Atlantic will increase its cargo-only flights by 35% to nearly 600 in June with the launch of new routes including Beijing and Brussels following the success of its May program.

June will see a total of 601 flights – 597 cargo-only services and 4 repatriation flights for the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). As the airline continues to extend its network to support demand for export and import cargoes as UK and international businesses continue their recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak, this month’s schedule highlights for customers include:

The launch of daily flights connecting London Heathrow and Beijing

Virgin Atlantic’s first-ever flights to Brussels, arriving from New York JFK before connecting directly to London twice-a-week

Three flights a week to Chicago, starting on 4 June

Increased Mumbai services to three a week, with UK departures every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from June 6

Three-times weekly London-Atlanta flights from June 9

A return to Nigeria with weekly Lagos flights to and from London

Increase to daily flights to and from Hong Kong

The airline’s growing schedule means cargo customers now have access to direct cargo capacity connecting London, New York JFK, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Lagos, Mumbai, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and Brussels. Kales Airline Services, Virgin general sales agency in Brussels will market its increased direct capacity in Belgium.

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said: “I want to personally thank all of our cargo customers who have supported our cargo-only flying. We’re proud to be increasing the number of frequencies and routes we can offer in June as international trade steps us its recovery and lockdowns are eased around the world. While the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to restrict passenger flying, our cargo operation has never been more important both to our business and in keeping vital global supply chains running.”

In May, Virgin Atlantic operated 446 cargo-only flights, including 66 charters for customers, averaging 52 weekly departures from the UK. The airline carried 4.4 million kilos of cargo into the UK and 5.3 million kilos of exports, producing the highest monthly cargo revenues in the airline’s 36-year history.

The airline also looks forward to continuing to partner with the Department for Health and the NHS, working with them on 17 cargo charters per week from Shanghai and Beijing throughout June and July, bringing in the supplies that the teams here in the UK urgently need to care for patients. To date the airline has carried over 44 million items of PPE from China to the UK, including over 33 million isolation and medical masks, as well as millions of disposable aprons and gloves, and protective coveralls. Other PPE shipments to date include eye protection covers, ventilators, isolation gowns, injection and infusion pumps, and disposable samplers and swabs.

Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, added: “May was an historic month for our cargo business, which is a quite remarkable achievement given the current trading environment. As well as demonstrating our customers’ confidence in Virgin Atlantic, this is a tribute to everyone in the airline who remains so committed to maintaining our customer offering despite the uncertainties which persist in the market. June will see this offering grow again and we are hoping for similar customer support now we have proven the resilience of our cargo-only flying program.”

LATAM Cargo transports 50 tons of essential medical goods to Roraima

LATAM Cargo Brazil maintains its cargo operation and is working its logistics to deliver essential goods to Brazilian states. On, May 29, and May 30, in partnership with VTC LOG, the company transported 50 tons of essential hospital goods to combat COVID-19 in Roraima, in addition to respirators that will be sent to Rondônia.

The transportation was carried out in three flights using Boeing 767 aircraft, a freighter and a passenger airplane adapted for cargo transportation, and Boeing 777 aircraft, also adapted for cargo.

They left São Paulo/Guarulhos airport for Manaus, where the cargo continued its trip in order to be delivered in both states.

Of the total transported, 40 respirators were sent to the state of Rondônia. The rest of the cargo, 50 respirators and about 50 tons of protection equipment and medicines, was delivered to Roraima.

“We are very committed to delivering essential goods to Brazilian states in order to fight COVID-19. We have even redesigned our network taking these cargo needs into consideration,” states Diogo Elias, LATAM Cargo Brazil’s director.

This initiative is one of many actions LATAM Cargo is carrying out in Brazil in order to supply all the country’s regions. Since the pandemic began, more than 100 flights have been carried out to transport around 600 tons of different goods in order to fight the disease. These include medicines, tests, alcohol-based gel, masks, gloves, thermometers, respirators and food donations.

The company maintains all its cargo operations in the Brazilian domestic market and is taking measures to increase its cargo capacity during the upcoming months. These actions include using larger aircraft for trips to strategic destinations within the country and transporting cargo in adapted passenger aircraft. This form of operation allows cargo to be placed under the seats, in the hand luggage compartments, or even on the seats.