QR Cargo hopes for ripple effect on sustainability

PLA got a chance to talk to Guillaume Halleux, cargo chief for Qatar Airways, as he discussed the latest chapter of the WeQare project.

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Last month Qatar Airways Cargo announced chapter 2 of its sustainabiliy programme WeQare in which the cargo airline pledged to offer free transport for wildlife back to their natural habitat. Payload Asia got a chance to do an interview with Guillaume Halleux, chief officer for cargo at Qatar Airways, as he shared the latest developments on WeQare, the intricacies of live animal transport and the ‘ripple effect’ of this programme to its staff and the society.

What’s the inspiration behind WeQare’s chapter 2: rewild the planet? Can you share a memorable effort by QR Cargo in transport of wildlife?
We are concerned about leaving a legacy for the future generation and I think each individual on this planet should really ask themselves what kind of world they want to leave for the next generation, for their children and their loved ones. Every action of ours affects the environment and since wild animals preserve the ecological balance which affects our planet’s wellness, we thought it was time to introduce Rewild the Planet.

Qatar Airways is already engaged in the fight against illegal trafficking of wild animals and we have performed a number of repatriation operations (e.g., Eric the rhino and Peggy the turtle). As an inaugural signatory to the Buckingham Palace Declaration in March 2016 and a founding member of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce, Qatar Airways has a zero tolerance policy towards the illegal trade of endangered wildlife. This second chapter of WeQare, our sustainability programme strengthens our commitment to wildlife and is consistent with the airline’s commitment to fight wildlife trafficking and illegal trade of wild animals.

Our employees are the ones who enabled the transportation of 1 million kilos and they will be the force behind the transport of wild animals for Chapter 2.

Do you think the industry needs to put more effort into sustainability? What are the other trends that are increasingly being adopted by airlines and partners in with people, planet and profit in mind?
Yes, we all need to put greater efforts into sustainability and awareness about this topic is definitely growing. Sustainability is not only limited to the aviation industry but has to be implemented at the most basic level. Several initiatives focusing on carbon impact and reducing environmental impact such as e-AWB, e-freight, aviation fuel etc. have been gaining momentum in recent years in the industry. There are areas for progress in sustainability and through WeQare, our sustainability programme, we are incorporating sustainability in our everyday actions and encourage others to do the same.

The programme encompasses actions or chapters around the key pillars of sustainability: environment, society, economy and culture. It’s a never ending programme, few chapters have been written while others are being thought of.

I am very glad with the progress of WeQare so far, it gives our employees and everyone part of this project, a sense of purpose and fulfilment as in the end, such noble deeds benefit both, the giver and the receiver and it has a ripple effect, inspiring everyone in the society to do good.

I read from an interview you’ve been receiving positive feedback from NGOs and groups on wildlife transport. I’d like to ask if there’s any particular project you’re looking forward to finalising in the near term? Can you walk us through the kind of coordination needed to make this happen?
Yes, indeed. We have started to receive few inquiries since the announcement of Chapter 2, the first inquiries being to move lions and rhinos. There are many NGOs, who do their best to move wild animals back to their natural habitat and most of the animals are taken away from the wild for entertainment for the most part. I talked to a number of NGOs, who volunteer and spend their resources including, sometimes, bearing the cost of transport. The biggest hurdle for most of them, after they complete all legal and regulatory procedures, is the cost of transport. So we came up with the project where if anyone or an NGO wants to ship wild animals back to their natural habitat, then Qatar Airways will move it free of charge. I firmly believe that the cost of the repatriating wild animals to their natural habitat should not be a hindrance, especially when it benefits our entire planet. The formalities for this transport during the current pandemic is slow, but we are on track and will be announcing more details soon.

Photo by Ami Vitale

How much do air freight rates usually go when you compare transporting wildlife with general cargo? Would you say the complexity of transporting wildlife is at par with that of the vaccines, or even more?
The repatriation of animals is not a huge market, but it is growing each year. Our number of shipments for live animals has seen 78% growth in 2020 over the previous year. The transport of wildlife is very complex since we are transporting living animals with unique personalities. But air transport is the most humane way to transport them back due to the time and speed element. When transporting animals, there are key factors such as aircraft environmental control system settings, airport and en-route environments, ground handling, animal physiology and this varies species by species.

Also given the combination of different species in transit, you can imagine the complexity of the transport. Due to the complexity of such high value cargo, the air freight costs are naturally high.

We have been transporting live animals since many years and have a dedicated product QR Live for transport of live animals throughout the world. The product is managed by specialists who also represent the airline in several global animals shipping organisations/boards such as IATA’s Live Animals and Perishables Board and Animal Transportation Association.

We can also provide bespoke charter solutions based on our customers’ requirements. Our state-of-the-art 4200 sqm live animal centre at the hub is fully equipped with all the facilities for animals being imported, exported and transiting our hub. All our processes are compliant with IATA’s Live Animal Regulations, ensuring the safe transport of animals by air.

What can we expect from the next chapter of WeQare?
The next chapter of WeQare will no doubt be focused on sustainability, I cannot disclose any more but stay tuned for a very exciting third chapter of our sustainability programme, WeQare.

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