Ground handling at a pivotal point

Collaboration and partnership again became the cream that rose to the surface in the discussion of the current ground handling environment and the challenges and opportunities present in this key part of the air cargo supply chain. Moderated by Steven Verhasselt, business development manager at Liège Airport the roundtable touched on a number of key topics including: Progress with e-freight, reducing dwell times, use of technology, the relationship between the various parties in the supply chain and the critical need for standardisation. By Donald Urquhart and Nikky Collamat.

A key challenge for the ground handling sector is the fact that it is by its nature, still very archaic, says Patrick Ee, senior manager cargo services centre and ULD management at Singapore Airlines Cargo. “Th e processes in place, the technology, the manpower intensity is still the same – there has been no real technological breakthrough and things are still done in the same way as they have in the past,” he said.

“I think the challenge is really for the industry to collaborate – and when I say collaborate I mean the ground handler, airline, as well as agent, shipper and also airport authorities – to come up with something to help us achieve a breakthrough and it’s not going to be easy,” Ee said. Th is is in part because of how regulated the industry, “but nonetheless we must try,” he urges.

SIA Cargo is also looking at how technology can help bring added efficiencies, including autonomous (driverless) vehicles to help improve the cargo acceptance processes, as well as looking at whether technology can aid the cargo build-up processes.

“We realise there is a need for change and especially for us, because Changi Airport Terminal 5 is coming up in about 10 years’ time and we want it to be stateof- the-art in terms of both passenger handling, as well as cargo handling.