Swiss WorldCargo, the airfreight division of Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS), offers a comprehensive range of logistics solutions for transporting high-value and care-intensive consignments to more than 130 destinations in over 80 countries. Headquartered at Zurich Airport, Swiss WorldCargo has been widely touted as a reliable and innovative service provider within the Lufthansa Group. Founded in 2002, Swiss International Air Lines created its airfreight division Swiss WorldCargo the same year.
The Zurich-based airline appointed Mr. Ashwin Bhat as its head of cargo division in October 2015. A veteran in the air cargo industry, Mr. Bhat, an Indian national had joined the Swiss in 1999. Ever since, he had donned several roles within the company, including being the head of Area Management for Asia, Middle East and Africa in 2010.
We spoke to Ashwin Bhat on an array of topics. Excerpts from an interview:
Which are the main regions and countries you provide freighter services to? Are you looking to foray into newer regions in the near future?
Swiss WorldCargo does not provide full freighter services; as the air cargo division of Swiss International Air Lines, our focus is to market the belly hold capacity of the SWISS fleet. The freight segment is very important to SWISS; in fact, it is only the co-loaded cargo that makes the operation of wide body aircraft really profitable.
We offer a comprehensive range of logistics solutions for transporting high-value and care-intensive consignments to
some 130 destinations in over 80 countries. Our extensive network of air cargo services is supplemented by daily truck connections between key business centres.
Swiss WorldCargo recently took delivery of the first of its nine new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. How will this provide improved airfreight services and enhanced environmental performance on the long-haul operations. When do you expect delivery of the remaining aircraft?
The new long-haul twinjet will enable us to offer more of our high quality quality airfreight services between Zurich hub and destinations such as New York JFK, Hong Kong, Montreal, Los Angeles, Bangkok, São Paulo, San Francisco and Tel Aviv (see deployment plan below).
The routes on which we are first deploying the Boeing 777-300ER have a very high load factor, so we are increasing the freight capacity of a fully-occupied passenger flight to almost 24 t (+15%). But weight is not the only key factor in airfreight operations, so we have also placed particular emphasis on the configuration of the cargo hold.
Compartments 1 and 2 are temperature-controlled – which makes the B777 precisely the aircraft we want.
The youngest – and biggest – member of the SWISS fleet won’t just extend our service offer to our customers: it will
also enhance the environmental performance of our longhaul operations, as it produces substantially lower carbon
emissions and is impressively low-noise.
The first of the nine aircraft which will be deployed in the SWISS fleet in 2016-17 was delivered at Zurich on 29th
January; the first intercontinental cargo operations took place on 21 January on flight LX14 from Zurich to New York JFK.
The B77W at a glance
– 9 new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in the SWISS fleet
– 6 more in 2016, 3 more in 2017/2018
– A bigger belly hold: 24,5t of cargo capacity
– A wider range: 14,490 km with maximum payload
– More respect for the environment: Reduced CO2 emissions and noise
Swiss WorldCargo has just taken the lead in IATA’s e-AWB 360 campaign to speed up process implementation
of switching to electronic air waybills (e-AWB) to all destinations and customers at numerous airports using
the ‘single process’ concept. Elaborate on the same.
Swiss WorldCargo is fully committed to making the e-AWB a success. And this commitment is underlined by our
participation in the e-AWB 360 campaign. As envisaged under the campaign promoted by IATA to accelerate process
implementation, the new e-AWB, using the ‘Single Process’ approach is offered to all destinations and to all customers at a number of airports Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) became the first such ‘e-airport’ on 1 January, joined by Paris (CDG) on 1 February, and by Zurich (ZRH), Dubai (DXB), Singapore (SIN), London (LHR) and Milan
(MXP and SWK) on 1 March. Additional key airports will follow in subsequent months.
At Swiss WorldCargo we have a holistic approach when it comes to paperless cargo and we work extensively with
regulators, freight forwarders, ground handling agents and other key stakeholders worldwide to achieve a paperless and more secure supply chain: In Zurich, for instance, we were the first airline to adopt the eCSD ‘Electronic Consignment Security Declarations’ which complements the paperless acceptance of air cargo.
Do you operate On Board Courier (OBC) services?
Since 2014, we have been offering an OBC service in cooperation with global on board courier specialist Chapman Freeborn.
Elaborate on the understanding Swiss WorldCargo shares with Lufthansa Group in terms of providing quality airfreight services to its customers As an integral part of Swiss International Airlines and thereby the LH group, we have a very collaborative relationship with other group companies. Each of us brings our unique vision, strategy and strength, which we use to learn and benchmark in order to continuously improve our services to our customers.
As a European carrier, how much of competition do you face from the Gulf region carriers?
As with others in this industry, we face our share of competition from carriers from different regions in the
world, not just the Gulf carriers.
What are the company’s growth strategies for the coming years?
As stated earlier, 2016 and 2017 will see a growth in the range of 10 to 15% due to integration of 777 a/c’s into
our fleet. In addition to the capacity growth, we are also working on further enhancing our service and product
portfolio. Even in a sluggish market environment, there are segments which show growth and where we believe Swiss WorldCargo capabilities and offering will be appreciated e.g. pharma and life science segment.
Airfreight is a people’s business and one of the factors where we will continue differentiating to its competition is
through the people aspect. Swiss WorldCargo has defined that one of our key strategic success factors is going to
be the people; we will be investing in further developing the skills and knowledge of our teams in order to further
improve our engagement with our customers.
How will you rate Swiss WorldCargo’s achievements ever since you took over on October 1, 2015. Any new product innovations introduced worth mentioning?
It would not be appropriate to judge one owns performance and achievements; hence I would let our customers and staff judge and issue my report card.
Regarding product innovation as stated earlier, a number of plans, which we would communicate in the months
What are your future projections for the air cargo industry?
2016 is continuing where 2015 ended. The uncertainty and sluggish market conditions will continue where capacity
will outgrow demand.
Continued market uncertainties and (extended) public holidays contributed to a -4% drop in global air cargo demand in May 2021 versus the pre-Covid level in 2019, according to the latest industry volume, load factor and rates analysis by CLIVE Data Services and TAC Index.
To offer a meaningful perspective of the air cargo industry’s performance, CLIVE Data Services is continuing to focus on comparing the current state of the market to pre-Covid 2019 volume, cargo capacity and load factor data until at least Q3 of this year. This is being produced alongside the 2020 comparison.
After more positive indicators for the air cargo market in the first four months of the year, May 2021 data showed a less favorable trend, with the fall in demand joined by a second consecutive month-over-month drop in ‘dynamic loadfactor’ and airfreight rates, which peaked in early May, falling away towards the end of the month.
The global air cargo industry will now have to wait until the publication of June 2021 market data to determine if May’s public holiday disruptions explain the shift in demand or whether the positivity of April’s +1% growth versus the same month of 2019 created a ‘false dawn’ of a sustainable growth recovery for the rest of the year.
“There were several (extended) public holidays in May which were not present in May 2019 (China, Russia and Eid al-Fitr at the end of the Ramadan) which will have impacted the monthly growth rate in a negative manner. By how much is hard to tell – so May 2021 is more complex to qualify than to quantity. The monthly data leaves us with a question mark that is likely to go unanswered until we see June’s level of demand. There are signals in May’s data that may be a cause for concern – particularly the -9% decline in air cargo volumes ex Europe versus May 2019 – but it’s certainly far too soon to tell if we are seeing a structural change in the recovery of the last few quarters. Nonetheless, there are several indicators in May that the path of growth may be slowing,” said Niall van de Wouw, Managing Director of CLIVE Data Services.
CLIVE’s ‘dynamic loadfactor’ for May of 69% – based on analysis of both the volume and weight perspectives of cargo flown and capacity available – was 7% points higher than in 2019, although this also presented falls of -2% points and -4% points versus April and March 2021.
Available capacity in May 2021 was down -21% compared to the level of May 2019. This shows the gap in airline capacity is widening again compared to pre-pandemic market conditions following the -18% figure in April and -14% for March.
May 2021 data versus the same month of 2020, when Covid restrictions caused severe disruption to the global aviation market, show +41% growth in chargeable weight, a +42% rise in available capacity, and +1% point increase in dynamic loadfactor.
TAC Index says higher rates in May are in line with still elevated load factors because of the capacity reduction in the market but it has also seen a downturn in prices on key tradelanes in recent weeks.
“Airfreight capacity is still scarce on many key trade lanes, so prices remain strong as economic activity picks up whilst passenger air capacity remains constrained due to restrictions on international travel. The BAI (Baltic Air Freight Indices) increased by 3% in May over April, but this is marked slowdown on the 17% growth seen in April-over-March,” added Gareth Sinclair of TAC Index. “Pricing strength continues to be seen ex China and Hong Kong to the US and Europe and from Europe to the US with all 3 trade lanes seeing price increases in May over April, although prices peaked in early May and have fallen away in recent weeks. Even so, the airfreight market continues to be strong, particularly CN/HK to US, and is likely to continue for some time as demand in several markets continues to outstrip supply as eCommerce traffic increases and economic activity strengthens in many markets.”
US to Europe prices saw a decline in May over April levels, although they did start to rise in the last 2 weeks of the month after an almost continuous decline since late March, TAC Index says. Comparing the May 2021 average price levels to May 2019 shows the relative strength of the 4 trade lanes with EU-US leading the way at +173% followed by CN/HK-US at 151%, and CN/HK-EU and US-EU growing at more modest levels of 84% and 64% respectively.
Individual market indicators continue to show the differences on particular trade lanes, according to TAC Index, which reports:
CN/HK – US: On average May prices were up versus April by 9% with the highest rate of the year of $8.90 recorded in the week ending May 10th. The underlying trend continues to show prices rising steadily.
CN/HK – EUR: Although the average rate in May was up 5% on April, there have been declines in recent weeks from the 2021 high of $5.07 seen in the week ending May 3rd.
US – EUR: There has been a steady decline in the weekly rate since the 2021 high of $2.13 in the week ending March 23rd, with the May average down 5% on April.
EUR – US: This market continues to be the most volatile with the rates trending upwards in recent weeks so that the May average was up 2% on April.
Event logistics specialists Los Angeles-headquartered Rock-it Cargo (Rock-it) and Jeddah-headquartered Sela Sport Company (Sela) have teamed up to form a global partnership supporting the growing sports and entertainment market in Saudi Arabia and beyond.
The partnership brings together a combined experience of over seven decades in the entertainment touring, corporate live event, sport, television and film, and exhibition industries.
Under the partnership, which kicks off this month, Rock-it will act as Sela’s global freight forwarding and logistics provider in all countries outside of Saudi Arabia, with Sela acting as the logistics provider to Rock-it within Saudi Arabia.
“Rock-it now has a partner that is unrivalled in its live event experience across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Sela now has a global partner with an extended network across five continents,” said Paul Martins, Chief Executive Officer and President, Rock-it.
“Both companies are already well-established market leaders in delivering time-sensitive logistics solutions for live sporting and entertainment events, industrial projects, and much more.
“This new global partnership provides us with a strong opportunity to further grow our business and broaden our service offering for customers.”
Rock-it Cargo is a specialty freight forwarding and logistics company that provides custom solutions for the live entertainment and music touring industries, fine arts, sports and broadcasting, corporate events, industrial power projects, and humanitarian relief markets.
Sela provides services in event and project management, event marketing and commercial partnerships, having delivered experiences to a total audience of over 20 million in 28 countries.
“Sela is going to raise the bar once more in the event management sector in Saudi with our partnership with Rock-it,” said Loai Kamakhi, General Manager of Business Solutions, Sela.
Rock-it will act as Sela’s single provider to handle the global logistics of freight movement to Saudi Arabia for Sela’s ever-growing list of shows and events.
United Cargo has become the first North American carrier to approve the use of Envirotainer’s recently launched Releye RLP temperature-controlled container.
Following the approval, United Cargo’s portfolio now includes more than 15 leasable container options designed to keep cargo cool or at a controlled room temperature.
Customers can lease the container directly from United.
“This gives our TempControl customers another option to ship critical life-saving pharmaceuticals to any corner of the globe at the desired temperature,” said Manu Jacobs, United Cargo’s director of specialty products.
TheReleye was launched in May and is the first actively controlled container to accommodate three Euro pallets, as well as offering live data monitoring for location, temperature, battery level, and humidity of the cargo inside.
SAS Cargo has extended its unit load device (ULD) partnership with Unilode Aviation Solutions by five years, up to 2026.
Through the extended deal, which has been in place since 2011, Unilode will continue to provide ULD management and repair services for the Scandinavian carrier at its Copenhagen hub — as well as at Unilode’s MRO stations .
Unilode will also continue to supply SAS Cargo with containers and pallets from its pooled ULD fleet, as well as enabling the carrier to use its track and trace solutions.
Additionally, SAS Cargo will trial SAS Cargo’s Connect service package, which monitors and and gives notifications about ULDs’ temperature, humidity, shock and light data.
Max Knagge, president and chief executive of SAS Cargo Group, said: “We have built a strong relationship with Unilode over the years. Unilode’s pooled fleet significantly increases month-to-month ULD flexibility, enabling us to pay only for the ULDs we need, which is critically important in volatile market situations and during a pandemic.
“This will also help us reduce our ULD-related spend. In the years ahead we see great opportunity for growth and continued success through our partnership with Unilode.”
Babak Yazdani, managing director of ULD Solutions at Unilode, added: “We are proud to have been a long-term trusted partner for SAS Cargo over the past 10 years. This is the second renewal of our ULD management agreement, which is a testament to the mutually beneficial collaborative relationships we build with our customers.
“We are committed to further strengthening our partnership and supporting SAS Cargo’s business with innovative solutions that enable them to identify new revenue streams. SAS Cargo has a strong sustainability agenda to reduce carbon emissions and we are pleased Unilode’s sustainable pooling model contributes to their efforts.”
Qatar Airways marks a significant milestone in the rebound of international leisure travel with the resumption of four weekly flights to the famed holiday destination of Phuket, Thailand, starting 1 July. In addition to its 12 weekly Bangkok flights, the airline will operate a total of 16 weekly flights to Thailand, providing seamless connectivity for its passengers travelling from Europe, the Middle East and United States.
As Thailand reopens to holidaymakers from around the world, fully vaccinated travelers will soon be able to visit once again whilst also enjoying the award-winning hospitality and service available on Qatar Airways and at its hub, Hamad International Airport, the first and only 5-Star COVID-19 Safety Rated Airport in the Middle East.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker said: “With the resumption of flights to Phuket, Qatar Airways marks a significant milestone in the recovery of international tourism. We are proud to have lead the industry, setting the benchmark for safety, innovation and customer service throughout the pandemic.
“We know many of our customers are eager to get back flying and return to some of their favorite holiday destinations, such as Phuket. Famed for its many exotic beaches, family friendly atmosphere, turquoise waters and delicious local cuisine, Phuket is an ideal destination for a summer getaway. We look forward to working with our partners in Thailand to support the recovery of their tourism sector.”
Launched in 2010, Phuket became Qatar Airways’ 93rd destination at the time. The resort destination is a magnet for holidaymakers, particularly from Europe, the Middle East and United States. The route will be served by the airline’s modern and sustainable Boeing 787 Dreamliner with seating for 22 passengers in Business Class and 232 in Economy Class.
As travelers return to the skies with Qatar Airways, they can take comfort knowing that they are travelling with the only airline in the world that has, together with its state-of-the-art global hub Hamad International Airport, achieved four 5-Star Skytrax ratings – including the prestigious 5-Star Airline Rating, 5-Star Airport Rating, 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating and 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These achievements highlight Qatar Airways’ commitment to providing its passengers with an industry-leading experience at every point of their journey, including the highest possible level of health and safety standards that safeguard the wellbeing of its passengers both on the ground and in the air.
New Zealand has always been a world leader in food production and exports. During the pandemic year, when global supply chains were disrupted due to the suspension of passenger flights, Emirates SkyCargo provided much needed air cargo connectivity through its cargo only passenger freighter flights to Auckland and Christchurch to facilitate the export of food, produce and other commodities, helping the country retain its position as one of the global leaders in exports of premium food and produce.
Emirates SkyCargo restarted cargo flights to New Zealand in early May with its passenger freighter aircraft*, working with the New Zealand government as part of its International Airfreight Capacity Scheme (IAFC) to connect exporters in New Zealand with their international customers. Currently the air cargo carrier offers cargo capacity on six flights a week from Auckland and one flight a week from Christchurch connecting New Zealand to other markets in the region as well as the rest of the world through Dubai.
Overall during the year 2020, Emirates SkyCargo helped export more than 8,000 tons of cargo from the country on over 650 flights to close to 200 global destinations. Food items and produce formed more than half of the total exports from New Zealand.
Some of the main food exports from New Zealand included meat, which formed close to half of the total food exports from New Zealand, seafood, fruits, berries and dairy products. Emirates SkyCargo also helped transport hundreds of ton of the much sought after Manuka honey from the country to international markets.
With the exception of a period of five weeks between end of March and early May, Emirates SkyCargo helped provide a steady channel for the flow of essential goods such as PPE and medical equipment into New Zealand and for the flow of food exports out of the country. Emirates SkyCargo helped bring in close to 850 ton of essential pharmaceutical goods from Europe and India during the year 2020, amounting to close to one-fifth of the total cargo imported into New Zealand on Emirates’ flights.
Emirates SkyCargo powers an important segment of the global cross-border logistics in trade of food and beverages, transporting fruits and vegetables, seafood, meat, food ingredients and ready to consume food and beverage items on its flights across six continents. Emirates also has developed a specialized product, ‘Emirates Fresh’ to ensure that perishables retain their freshness during transport.
Emirates SkyCargo network has grown to reach more than 130 destinations. Currently around 600 tons of food items are transported every day in the cargo hold of Emirates aircraft across the world. Flights facilitate an important trade lane for food exports between international markets, allowing food exporters to connect with customers in new and established markets.
The growth of export markets over the last decade has also provided a boost to farming communities and agriculture in the various production markets. Emirates SkyCargo’s flights provide a quick and direct connection for farmers and exporters of food items to their international end customers, thereby supporting their livelihoods and the local economy.
*cargo only flights operated on Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft with or without cargo loaded inside the passenger cabin.
Etihad Cargo has extended its deal with ULD management firm Jettainer to include the management of the carrier’s cool containers.
Jettainer has managed and maintained Etihad Cargo’s ULD fleet since 2011, but the airline has now added management of its temperature controlled containers through the container management firm’s cool&fly service.
This includes cool ULD order management, steering and positioning, monitoring and after-service management.
Andre Blech, director of operations and delivery at Etihad Cargo, said: “The expansion of the partnership delivers additional efficiency gains and cool&fly provides greater efficiency for the transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo which is especially paramount during the pandemic and in the long term.
“This plays a key role in the expansion plan of the PharmaLife and FreshForward product offering, ensuring customer satisfaction every step of the way.”
Logistics firm cargo-partner is pushing forward the expansion of its logistics facility close to Slovenia’s Ljubljana Airport after it reached capacity faster than expected.
The company opened its iLogistics Center two years ago, but the expansion of the facility, originally scheduled for 2024-2026, will now take place next year.
The project will bring the total area of the facility to 39,000 sq m, offering an additional 14,100 sq m of storage space on three floors.
A wide- and narrow-aisle racking system will provide an additional 9,000 pallet slots and will be equipped with semi-automated high-rack storage technology.
In addition to cross-dock, short-term and long-term storage areas, the new facility will also have a drone runway which can be used for parcel deliveries.
“Part of the facility will be dedicated to e-commerce services with a ‘drive-in pick-up point for personal collection or return of parcels, available to the inhabitants of the northwestern region of Slovenia,” the company said.
The conceptual design was completed in March, and the procedures for obtaining the necessary approvals and preparing the construction project are currently underway.
Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022 and the official opening is planned for fall 2022.
Viktor Kastelic, managing director of cargo-partner in Slovenia, said: “We expected that it would take more than two years to fill up the capacity, so we were delighted that the warehouse was almost full after one year.
“The rapid growth of our business, the needs of our customers and the success of our operations in the existing facility have led us to begin planning the expansion, which was originally scheduled for the period 2024-2026, immediately.”
JD Logistics – the transport arm of Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com – is targeting demand to and from Thailand with the launch of a new all-cargo charter flight between Shenzhen and Bangkok.
The service was launched in May and although the logistics company did not mention the carrier operating the service or aircraft being used, online images appear to suggest the service is being operated by a Longhao Airlines B737-800 freighter.
“Open to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in both countries, the freight-dedicated route will facilitate delivery of goods from mainland China to customers in Thailand and vice versa within 48 hours,” the company said.
“Running between Shenzhen Bao’an Airport and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport three times a week with same-day return, this end-to-end fully self-operated and full-link transportation route will not only greatly increase the speed of cross-border freight, but also provide vigorous support for the development of cross-border business through both Thai and Chinese e-commerce channels, including JD.com and JD’s joint venture in Thailand, JD Central (JDC),” it added.
From China, JD Logistics said it expected goods such as daily necessities, small household appliances, consumer electronics and other e-commerce goods to be transported.
In the opposite direction, volumes will comprise fresh produce, supplemented by industrial products such as auto parts.
In the past year, China has further opened its market to foreign goods by implementing policies with an aim to facilitate robust cross-border trade, the company added.
JD Logistics shares began trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange today. Reports say that the company’s share price initially surged before dropping back behind expectations.