India: Poor infrastructure limits airfreight
Another company with a large presence in India is Lufthansa. Operating a pharmaceutical hub at Hyderabad International Airport since May, Lufthansa Cargo launched this facility to meet the cool-chain requirements of transporting such time-sensitive materials. Before doing so, however, Lufthansa ensured that the infrastructure supporting the facility could hold up to its stringent internal certification processes.
It’s a key reason why Carsten Hernig, Lufthansa’s regional director, South Asia, Middle East and Pakistan, thinks assertions about India’s weak infrastructure are overblown.
“Immense activities are underway or have already been accomplished to improve India’s situation,” Hernig says. “New airports have been built in many cities, and improvement is going on at practically every international airport in the country. The development of infrastructure is on the way and will not be stopped.”
Hyderabad airport, for instance, is only three years old and features a state-of-the-art cargo terminal spanning 14,330 square meters. And Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport received a facelift in recent years, welcoming a new, 500,000-square-meter international terminal in 2010.
To Hernig, it’s more beneficial to look at the progress being made in the poverty-stricken nation than to discuss its shortcomings. “More important at this stage is that the processes are now being developed in a direction, which enables transportation flows to make maximum efficient use of the new infrastructures,” he says.
Despite improvements to India’s aviation sector, numerous challenges remain — namely its reluctance to embrace E-freight, some experts say.
Thapar, for one, believes the nation’s airfreight operations could improve tremendously with the implementation of E-freight. Not only would this streamline processes and improve cost-efficiencies, he says, it would also eliminate waste “due to high paper consumption involved in current manual transactional modes.”
Even Hernig can’t argue with this point. “India still has a way to go when it comes to efficiency improvements,” he says. Transshipments, known-shipper concepts, electronic billing and cargo accounts settlement systems implementation are some of the areas Herning mentions as necessitating progress.
Not surprisingly, ITT’s Corp.’s Asare believes one key action could boost India’s airfreight operations tremendously: investing in modern technology.
“As economic activity in India increases, more and more goods must be moved in and out of the country’s airports and airspace as efficiently as possible; however, technologies, such as secondary radars, are no longer adequate in supporting these increasing number of air traffic operations,” he says. “This hampers the efficient air transportation of goods in and out of India.”
Asare encourages India to follow the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s lead and employ advanced air traffic control techniques, such as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, or ADS-B. A satellite-based system like ADS-B would boost India’s freight operations by enabling airports and airlines to transport cargo more efficiently, he says.
Clearly, there are high costs associated with this technology, but Asare believes such investments are necessary to catapult India’s aviation sector into the 21st century. Doing so would also narrow the gap between India’s high level of output and low level of standardization.