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.

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