India's forwarders blast poor airport cargo turnaround times
KWE India deputy managing director Karthi Baskar says the biggest challenge for forwarders in India is getting cargo through airports and to customers, with airports and airlines needing to up their game
KWE India deputy managing director Karthi Baskar says the biggest challenge for forwarders in India is getting cargo through airports and to customers, with airports and airlines needing to up their game.
'Detention and demurrage at the airport terminal, low free-days and high turnaround times cost customers time and money,' he told London's Loadstar.
'There's a large amount of paperwork in customs, terminal and cargo operations, which requires a considerable workforce. So, automation will be key for improving future operations, but the cost of the technology is a concern.'
The privatisation of airports such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad has helped in terms of handling and process efficiency, Mr Baskar added, but there is 'still a need to improve airport waiting times.'
According to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC), Delhi is the fastest air cargo hub in India, in terms of customs clearance, with 75 per cent of cargo cleared in under 48 hours. By comparison, only a quarter of cargo at Mumbai is cleared within the same timeframe.
'Things are improving at all airports, but better and long-term planning needs to be implemented by airport operators to manage peak loads and regulate cargo flow, which is still a concern,' Mr Baskar noted.
India's total air cargo volumes rose to 3.75 million tonnes in financial year 2019, a 7.5 per cent growth rate. However, the industry needs to grow by 12.5 per cent a year to reach the national target of 10 million tonnes by 2027.
The growth has seen competition between domestic carriers heating up.
According to local media, passenger airline IndiGo has maintained pole position through its large fleet of belly capacity, controlling a third of the market, but SpiceXpress could overtake express carrier Blue Dart for second place this year if its current growth trajection continues. The SpiceJet subsidiary now has four freighters and expects to take delivery of another six by year-end.
For KWE India, a subsidiary of Japanese 3PL Kintetsu World Express, the air freight market has been driven by cargo from the pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retail and projects sectors, with the major tradelanes being from India to the US, Middle East and Africa, explained Mr Baskar.
'The automotive sector had a major slump, due changes in regulations on emissions and electric vehicles, coming into effect,' he added.
Mr Baskar said there had been considerable increases to cold chain cargo volumes following India's airport privatisation programme.
'Improved availability of cold storage trucks, reefer containers and special equipment to handle pharma products, along with good packaging solutions are now available throughout the market,' he added.
Meanwhile, Mr Baskar said, conflict between India and Pakistan had affected the air freight market, due to airspace restrictions, resulting in higher fuel costs and reduced payloads.
'Furthermore, the US-China trade war is impacting the sourcing balance within continents, and all major airlines have price-versus-space imbalances, which is leading them to readjust routes and capacity,' he added.