Special shippers: Pharma investment paces Benelux
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the third largest cargo hub in Europe, saw a 1-percent increase in throughput in the first six months of this year. But growth feels “sluggish,” according to Enno Osinga, senior vice president cargo.
“Nobody’s talking about the market picking up; it’s just changes in composition,” he says. “Inbound volumes from Asia grew a little in June, but a lot of it is capacity-driven. There is big growth from North America, but that’s partly because LAN was flying flowers from Bogota and is now going via Miami. Likewise, there are many shifts among SkyTeam alliance members where freighters are concerned.”
Schiphol’s belly-hold and combi volumes were up 2 percent year-over-year in June while freighter tonnage was fractionally down, continuing a pattern that began in 2011. Home carrier KLM is “one of the few carriers still running a large combi fleet,” Osinga says, and can carry 45 to 55 tonnes on its 747s.
The Air France-KLM-Martinair group has a 30 percent share of the flown cargo market to and from Europe. Following KLM’s transfer of its full-freighter activity to Martinair, three of KLM’s remaining B747-400 ERFs are operated by Martinair—though still in KLM livery—while a fourth is on lease to Etihad Airways.
Martinair also used to have four former combi B747-400 BCFs, two of which were operated for Air Cargo Germany until the carrier ran into financial problems. A spokesman for Martinair says these airplanes, plus a third that was operating in the group’s “Safari” livery, have gone back to their lessors (the Safari flight, linking Amsterdam, Sharjah, Guangzhou, Nairobi and Lagos, is now operated by one of the ERFs). With Martinair’s fourth BCF also due to be returned to its lessor, all four of the type will soon have been withdrawn from service.
The spokesman adds that Martinair has also disposed of one of its seven MD-11 freighters, “and there is a strong possibility a second may follow.”
The Benelux region’s strength in pharmaceuticals is relevant to this shift away from freighters. “Pharma customers have a strong preference for passenger flights because of their greater punctuality,” Osinga points out.
Amsterdam is a logical choice as a regional hub, he says.
“We have high-quality infrastructure and a more highly developed trucking network than anywhere else, especially in the direction of Germany,” he says. “The current business climate is right for single European distribution centers. Companies are consolidating their multiple locations, and the Netherlands is top of their list.”
Following its recent addition of warehouse capacity, Osinga says Schiphol Logistics Park is in advanced discussions with clients in the fashion and pharmaceutical sectors.
A recent example of the Netherlands’ appeal to major global brands came with Menlo Worldwide Logistics’ announcement in July that U.S. cosmetics company NYX had chosen to service its expanding Western Europe market through Menlo’s multi-user facility at Eersel, in the south of the country.
Menlo provides a range of services for NYX, from managing inbound air and oceanfreight to inventory control, order fulfillment and distribution. A media statement explained: “Although Germany is currently NYX’s largest market, Eersel was chosen for its high level of connectivity from an international and pan-European perspective.”
Helmut Kaspers , chief commercial officer West Europe for Damco, says it was the Netherlands’ reputation for well-educated staff with longstanding freight forwarding expertise that prompted the logistics provider to relocate its global headquarters from Copenhagen to The Hague earlier this year.
“The language skills and infrastructure are important, and the administrations in both countries [Belgium and the Netherlands] are supportive,” he says.
The region’s seaports are well placed to serve shippers and forwarders requiring multimodal solutions, Kaspers adds. Damco has reduced its use of airfreight except for must-fly pharmaceutical and IT shipments, consolidating air movements through Amsterdam and Frankfurt, but there are signs of a return to air as the general economy improves.