Technology and innovations are the future of the Air Cargo industry

Technology and innovations are the future of the Air Cargo industry

Spotlight: Technology and innovations are the future of the Air Cargo industry

 

1. The Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru processed 411,513 metric tonnes (MT) of cargo as on 2021, the highest till now. I am sure there have been a lot of strategies and hard work behind it. Can you please tell us something about the journey?

 

Airfreight volumes through BLR Airport have grown considerably over the last ten years, with a CAGR of 11% (pre-COVID). Under the challenging pandemic environment, BLR Airport has been registering record tonnage month-on-month, with international cargo (both imports and exports) continuing to be a growth driver. Key factors that have led to this growth include a conducive geographic location with easy access to manufacturing hubs in South India, adequate airline capacities to service critical sectors across the globe, and world-class cargo infrastructure. Currently, we cater to 14 per cent of the Indian cargo market and 42 per cent of the South India cargo market. We are the busiest airport in South India and the third busiest in India. BLR Airport processed an all-time high tonnage of 411,513 Metric Tonnes (MT) of cargo since Airport Opening Day (AOD) in the fiscal year 2021-2022, recording a growth of 26% as against 326,643MT in FY 2021.

 

In October 2021, Bengaluru Airport broke records when it handled the highest monthly cargo throughput since it began operations in 2008. Perishable cargo has been another bright spot for BLR Airport. Our cargo infrastructure, powered by technology, provides rapid distribution of perishable cargo, making BLR Airport the preferred cargo airport in South India.

 

In June 2021, we signed an e-agreement with Kale Logistics Solutions to develop the ACS platform to streamline our air freight logistics system at the airport. Now, 95% of airport stakeholders have adopted the Kale Logistics Solutions Airport Cargo Community System (ACS) to streamline their cargo operations so we can jointly offer the best of services to customers.

 

Equally, we aim to create an environment that enables our cargo partners to introduce new initiatives and facilities that cater to constantly evolving demand.

 

According to internal estimates, the airport’s annual cargo potential, is estimated to be 1.7–1.9 million metric tonnes by 2038. Considering the natural catchment area of Bangalore and based on the distance of exporter and importer bases from the airport; the design capacity for cargo at the end of financial year FY 2020-21, enhanced from 570,000 MT annually, to 715,000 MT, with the addition of the Express Cargo Terminal (ECT). We have a dedicated cold zone – AISATS Coolport – with the capacity to handle 40,000 MT per annum and temperature zones ranging from -25 to +25 degrees Centigrade under the same roof. Menzies Aviation Bobba Bangalore has a cold zone, with a capacity of 20,000 MT per annum and the capability to handle 20 Unit Load Device (ULD) Pallets from 15 to 25 degrees Centigrade and 2 ULD for 2 to 8 degrees Centigrade, which has helped us with our perishable exports greatly.

 

We plan to further expand capacity over the next few years up to 985,000 MT annually to meet industry needs. In the long term, we expect to add additional capability to allow us to meet our forecast demand of over 1.5 million MT annually.

2. How do technology and innovations contribute to Bengaluru airport, turning it into an Intelligent Cargo Airport?

 

Our vision is to make BLR Airport a flourishing cargo hub by providing state-of-the-art infrastructure equipped with cutting-edge technology and facilities. We are highly distinguished; in terms of infrastructure, the quality of our terminals and terminal operators, and automation. In the age of digitalisation, no airport can afford to ignore technology adoption. Therefore, we have the best integration with an Airport Cargo Community System (ACS), which integrates and provides accurate information to our cargo terminal operators and stakeholders. ACS has made the air logistics processes streamlined and paperless. ACS has made real-time data available to the whole Cargo Community at the airport and has significantly reduced duplication and manual data entry, reducing dwell times and improved security. With 95 per cent adoption by the Cargo Community in Bengaluru, digitisation is already a norm at BLR Airport.

 

Additionally, an Internet-of-Things (IoT) based solution monitor temperature-controlled cargo, enabling real-time supply chain visibility at BLR Airport. Thus, providing live monitoring of temperature-sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals and perishables, including fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy products, and flowers.

3. Has the pandemic changed the dynamics in the Air Cargo industry, and what lessons can we take away from this situation?

 

The value of air cargo to airlines, governments, shippers, and consignees became quite evident during the Covid-19 crisis. As I have mentioned earlier, in the last few years, BLR airport has emerged as the preferred cargo airport in South India. The main factor that led to this transformation was that we were continuously working towards improving operational efficiency by providing state-of-the-art infrastructure, cutting-edge technology, and efficient cargo handling infrastructure.

 

Our vision is to nurture the regional economy by developing compatible logistics facilities at the airport. The Air Cargo industry is evolving and finding new procedures and logistics arrangements regularly, playing a pivotal role in supporting the recovery of the global supply chain and the economy. With the need for vaccine distribution, the expanded use of charter flights increased. e-Commerce volumes accelerated during the pandemic, and freight movement at the airport, amplified; cargo carriers with climate-controlled facilities saw a business opportunity in the worldwide distribution of billions of doses of vaccines.

 

Technological innovations achieved during this time; made the industry notice the urgent need for Air Cargo to accelerate its digital and sustainable transformation and develop a collaborative business model.

4. How important is sustainability for the growth of the cargo industry?

 

In today’s age, as businesses worldwide make sustainable choices, air cargo is also making progress in taking several initiatives. The industry is looking for new strategies to reduce the negative impact of aviation on the environment. The increasing importance of e-freight is gaining momentum and helps to digitise all necessary paperwork. Many companies are setting ambitious environmental goals to achieve in record time. Carbon offsets can help the Air Cargo industry bridge the gap as it researches and implements new techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of direct operations. Many stakeholders, including employees, investors, and customers, are asking for sustainability credentials from the Air Cargo industry, increasing the pressure to adopt more sustainable ways. We have a long way to go in making it more sustainable, which will help grow the Air Cargo industry.

 

As highlighted by the Hon’ble Civil Aviation Minister during the recent ACFI (Air Cargo Forum India) conference in Delhi, the three crucial issues further add to sustainability initiatives at airports that the ministry is pursuing. The reduction of area requirement for FTWZ (Free Trade Warehousing Zones); single bond, faceless and paperless customs clearances; and the presence of the PGS (Partner Government Systems) at airports. These significant initiatives will drive sustainability in the Air Cargo sector.