Air Freight Stations: A boon for the air cargo industry?
With the intention to decongest the saturated facilities and the infrastructure at airports, Ministry of Civil Aviation has come up with guidelines to set up Air Freight Stations (AFS) across the country. CARGOTALK focuses on the opportunities that AFS ha
SL Sharma, President, ACAAI
The policy guidelines on AFS were issued by Ministry of Civil Aviation on October 28, 2014. This is a very important policy initiative of the Government of India. It is hoped that in due course, this will give a great boost to the air cargo industry, facilitate its operations, and decongest the saturated cargo facilities and infrastructure at airports such as Mumbai and Chennai, which are experiencing tremendous problems due to congestion.
ACAAI is confident that the air cargo and logistics industries will derive tremendous benefits when more number of AFSs become operational. AFSs will enable exporters, importers and the logistics and air cargo industries to function in greater harmony with one another. The customs, security and other regulators’ formalities can be completed at the AFS, and the cleared goods can be speedily transported to the airport in the case of export goods, and to the consignee’s premises in the case of import goods. It is expected that the facility will be able to cope with the high degree of vehicular movements, thereby, facilitating the speedy offloading and loading of export and import goods. At present, the infrastructure and approach roads at several major airports and sea ports are grossly inadequate, causing extensive delays. Consequently, the dwell time at these ports is very high, which causes delays in the prompt dispatch of export goods, and timely receipt of import goods by the end users. The transaction costs also increase due to such delays, thereby making exports from India uncompetitive vis-à-vis exports from other countries.
AFSs have the scope and a unique opportunity to contribute meaningfully to enhancing and improving this situation. It will definitely decongest the saturated facilities and infrastructure at various airports. This is an urgent requirement, as the air cargo and logistics industries are currently undergoing unbearable stress and strain due to these factors. By virtue of their strategic location, AFS will become a median between the hinterland, where many manufacturing hubs are located, and the airports/seaports. Thus, the exporters and importers will be able to derive the dual benefits of speed and ease of access to such facilities.
ACAAI has been very actively involved in the formulation of these guidelines. We have participated in various meetings in ACLPB etc., at which this subject was deliberated prior to the finalisation of these guidelines.
Debashis Dutta, Chairman, FFFAI
To keep pace with the fast changing pattern of cargo handling in air cargo industry, the essence is the speedy delivery. However, the importance of setting up of AFS throughout the country has long been felt intensely and we in FFFAI have suggested our views in this regard to the Government in formation of AFS.
The prime object of setting up AFS is to de-congest the air cargo terminal at the gateway airports. This will facilitate expeditious handling of export and import cargo and will improve efficiency of cargo handling in decongesting the customs and forwarding activities. Thus the cargo will be brought to the air cargo terminal in a ‘Ready for Cargo’ condition. Based on the faster clearance, the dispatch of cargo from AFS to air cargo terminal at the airport can be planned in advance and space can accordingly be booked with the airlines well in advance. This will also help the airlines to plan their space allotment in time and cargo can be loaded promptly on arrival at the loading bays without any further loss of time.
The most important thing for success of AFS would be seamless co-ordination among all its stakeholders such as airlines, consol agent, customs brokers, etc.
Bharat J Thakkar, Jt. Managing Director, Zeus Air Services
These guidelines on setting up AFS across the country have been issued to ensure the value addition offered to facilitate the seamless movement of export and import of international air cargo. AFS is an off airport common user facility for handling and temporary transit shed for storage of import and export cargo with the aim to reduce congestion at major metro airports, just like Container Freight Station (CFS) / Inland Container Depot (ICD) which brought down the congestion at few major ports. It is just another feather in the hat. I have no doubt that it will add value but the question remains, “Will terminal operators extend full cooperation in terms of tariff and avoid double levy?”
Hyderabad Menzies Air Cargo Terminal has recently launched a bonded trucking weekly service from AFS in Chennai in association with Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) to Hyderabad for exports. This partnership has set an example that this is the only way to go forward. ICDs/CFSs or off airport locations like Pune and Nasik should be flexible with no restriction to bonded truckers. At this time prudence demands that all stakeholders work in tandem keeping difference on side. I am not suggesting services at cost or loss, but would like to urge to be fair with EXIM.