Pandemic pulls Schiphol’s 2020 cargo down 8%

Schiphol AMS
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Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), in the midst of another shake-up of its cargo division, reports a -8.0 per cent cargo volume decline for 2020, year-on-year at the hands of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airport reports a total cargo handling for the year of 1.44 million tonnes, of which full freighters accounted for 61 per cent of total volume, pax-cargo-only (passenger flights with only freight on board) at 10 per cent, and passenger flights at 29 per cent.

Inbound cargo volumes declined by 4.7 per cent to 754,361 tonnes in 2020 compared to 2019, and outbound cargo volumes decreased 11.7 per cent to 687,161 tonnes during the same period.

The three largest destinations for cargo tonnage were Shanghai (PVG), Doha (DOH), and Chicago (ORD).

Patricia Vitalis AMS
Patricia Vitalis

“The 2020 figures are in line with our expectations given the challenging year we all had to face,” says Patricia Vitalis, incoming director Airport Operations and Aviation Partnerships.

“I am proud of our cargo community and our team at Schiphol, who have worked hard to continue supporting our customers through the pandemic in a constantly changing business landscape and for providing new routes for new cargo airlines to transport essential PPE consignments.

Vitalis says the cargo community at Schiphol has focused on collaboration to find solutions including the launch of Vaccines Gateway Netherlands, which is a task force of more than 60 companies providing the swift, secure, and safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccines.”

“We will continue to work together to ensure that supply chains keep moving,” she adds.

Outbound traffic to the Asian region from Schiphol was down 8.2 per cent to 238,889 tonnes in 2020 y-o-y, and inbound declined 0.6 per cent to 266,688 tonnes.

The outbound North American market fell 8.3 per cent to 150,988 tonnes, while inbound was down 9.7 per cent to 101,132 tonnes.

Cargo inbound to Latin America declined 10.8 per cent to 102,983 tonnes and outbound dropped 4.3 per cent to 72,899 tonnes.

European figures show outbound traffic fell a whopping 28.6 per cent to 85,395 tonnes and inbound increased only fractionally by 0.01 per cent to 106,487 tonnes.

The Middle East market inbound showed a positive story as inbound was up 8.5 per cent to 101,014 tonnes, but outbound was down 9.3 per cent to 96,321 tonnes.

Outbound traffic to Africa was down 17.7 per cent to 42,669 tonnes and inbound declined 21 per cent to 76,057 tonnes.

Key flower imports from Africa showed a dip in the first half of 2020, but stabilised later in the year, AMS says.

In 2020 the airport accelerated its Smart Cargo Mainport Program, aimed at ensuring faster handling of export cargo. This included all ground handlers at Schiphol preparing for digital and/or electronic pre-notification in January 2021.

Schiphol also joined the Circular Plastics Alliance as part of its stated commitment to ensuring the flowers moving through the airport are shipped in a sustainable way.

The Alliance has introduced standardised box sizes for flower consignments with the aim of reducing the product importers’ carbon footprint by 25 per cent, whilst increasing their profitability by 25 per cent at the same time.

This year will also see another iteration of Schiphol’s cargo division, as it falls under the umbrella of the newly-established Aviation Business Development Division. This division groups all airline and cargo commercial and operational business in a single department and “introducing new faces”, the airport notes. Familiar faces, including Schiphol cargo veterans Bart Pouwels, head of Cargo, and Ferry van der Ent, director of Business Development will both leave in March.

Schiphol says it will share the “new operational model” with the Cargo Community once this is in place.

This year will also see the continued modernisation of airport cargo information platform Cargonaut’s Port Community System.

The pandemic, while hitting passenger belly cargo hard, did have a positive effect on Schiphol’s slot situation which has been a bugbear for the cargo sector for more than two years now.

Availability of slots became restricted for freighters – forcing some carriers to shift services to other European airports – after Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL) strictly applied the so-called Local Rule 2, or the 80/20 rule, which required airlines to use 80 per cent of their slots or risk losing them.

Because of the nature of cargo, this hit all-freight operators particularly hard. With the onset of the global pandemic and the sharp contraction of passenger networks, the ACNL temporarily granted a temporary waiver.


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