Interesting timesâ€¦ the reprise
I know in the four years I’ve been doing this job as Editor of Payload.
October 1, 2011
By Donald Urquhart
Interesting times… the reprise
I know in the four years I’ve been doing this job as Editor of Payload. I’ve surely worn out the observation that the air cargo industry seems to perpetually ‘live in interesting times’, but having spend a great deal of my journalistic life covering the ocean shipping industry, I can’t help but be driven to that same observation time and time again. The whole drama that is the dispute between Cargolux and Boeing simply underscores the dynamic and volatile nature of the industry. It is one that would have likely passed largely unnoticed – or certainly not with the screaming headlines it provoked over the last few weeks – had it not involved a new aircraft the likes of the B747-8F that is undeniably going to be a game changing aircraft for the industry. It is most unfortunate that the dispute took place just as the champagne corks were so justifiably about to be popped, but this is the nature of commercial transactions, all the more so when considering this is a product of a very high technology industry. Although the underlying reasons for the dispute are not being acknowledged publicly by the parties involved, it clearly revolves around performance issues relating to the need to redesign the aircraft’s wing and wing box following early flight testing. These performance issues have apparently been addressed in the later production versions of the aircraft, but unavoidably left the earlier versions somewhat under the bar. Of course for many, particularly the air cargo hacks reporting on the industry, the involvement – real, or imagined – of Qatar’s Akbar Al-Baker remains an intriguing enigma in this whole drama. It’s clear that the enigmatic Qatar Airways chief has a very focused agenda, something that was eminently clear at the IATA AGM in Singapore some months back. Determined to establish Qatar Airways at the top rank of global airlines, his distain for protectionism and what he sees as Euro-centric influence in the industry is not only abundantly clear, but not unjustified as well. Qatar’s 35 per cent stake in main deck player Cargolux still has many in the industry scratching their heads, but make no mistake, Al- Baker and Qatar, like Emirates for instance, has a well thought out strategy that the rest of us will have to wait to see methodically unfold. And so, back to that big new bird, at the end of the day we will all have to just wait a little bit longer – after all, what is a few more weeks after a couple of years of delay – to see this new jumbo take its place in history as it a key facilitator of world trade. I hope you enjoy this issue of Payload, as our team presents you with a number of stories covering the diverse aspects impacting the industry. From the raw reality of IATA’s cargo forecast, to GACAG’s firming up, to the latest on the security/terrorism front to the debate over Hong Kong’s third runway proposal and ultimately to our cover story on an issue that is rightfully garnering increasing attention and concern – this is an issue packed with thought provoking stories. The cover story on undeclared dangerous goods is a particularly salient. At a recent Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) meeting in Hong Kong one participant even went so far as to highlight that the rapidly growing problem – in part due to growing Internet e-commerce – is in some ways far more serious a threat than terrorist and criminal related security issues. The problem will not be an easy one to solve, but with two freighter crashes in the last year suspected of being related to lithium battery shipments the time for substantive action by the industry is clearly at hand.