When mainstream news and ordinary people are talking about the global supply chain, you know the situation is serious.
Most years, everyone just expects whatever they need to be available everywhere. Kiwis for your Saturday morning fruit plate? Aluminum parts for your new shower install? Microchips for your SUV assembly line? They’d be there right on schedule, reliable as the sun rising in the east.
This year? Not so much. Everyone from major manufacturers to your Aunt Gladys are worried about getting the goods they need on time.
With those concerns on the mind of every Dangerous Goods pro, the HazMatters podcast recently spoke with James Wyatt, General Manager of aeroconcept (and a Labelmaster strategic consulting partner). Here are some highlights from that conversation.
Maintaining capacity is a week-to-week challenge
“Air cargo capacity has been at a premium since the start of the pandemic,” Wyatt says, “and it remains a pain point for the industry.”
Those conditions don’t project to ease up anytime soon, either. Wyatt adds, “If you look at the estimated forecast of air cargo it’s forecast to grow at 9.5 percent this year and 5.6 percent in 2022, which are quite significant numbers.”
And the struggle isn’t merely in the raw numbers. The complexity of international air cargo transport makes maintaining capacity a week-to-week challenge.
“You’re seeing weekly shifts of capacities on certain trade lanes,” Wyatt says, “driven by what airlines are able to operate and provide, and driven by what governments are allowing in terms of borders being open and closed. It’s quite an interesting situation with lots of balls in the air.”
Passenger jets without passengers
Air cargo carries a fraction of the volume of road, rail or maritime, but those shipments are the most urgent and specialized of the entire global supply chain.
Wyatt says, “It’s always been an industry which has been delivering on the frontline urgent shipments, specializing in various commodities, improving people’s lives on a daily basis. Providing that infrastructure—that’s something that we’ve been doing in air cargo for years.”
That’s why we’re all fortunate air carriers were able to use every resource at their disposal—even flying passenger jets without passengers, just for the cargo capacity they offered.
“Lufthansa have just recently resumed servicing Oman Air coming from Muscat into Munich with an A330 purely carrying cargo—no passengers, no cabin crew—just because capacity is at such a demand from the supply chain.”
This resourcefulness wasn’t just beneficial for the supply chain—it was essential to the survival of many air carriers. Wyatt says, “If it wasn’t for air cargo than we would have seen some very very different results for airlines. There were cargo airlines that reported their best-ever years in 2020.”
“Air cargo is still flying the flag”
Wyatt also shared some insight into the growing use of digital declarations of Dangerous Goods and their role in streamlining air cargo operations. In fact, the topic was so interesting, it will be continued in part 2 of Wyatt’s interview, to be released in early December.
Meanwhile, he’s proud that air cargo has maintained its critical role during the most challenging period in recent memory.
“I am very proud as an aviation enthusiast that air cargo is certainly still flying the flag from a supply chain capacity perspective.”
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