Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s anticipated SmartGate Cargo initiative may be operational earlier than expected, according to Enno Osinga, senior vice president of Schiphol Cargo. Schiphol SmartGate Cargo, which marks one of the first public-private initiatives in the airfreight sector, was initially slated to go live in 2014 or 2015. “Now we think we may be a little bit ahead of schedule,” Osinga told Air Cargo World. Conceptualized in 2009, Schiphol SmartGate Cargo attempts to expedite and protect goods leaving the EU via a coordinated inspection process. “Together with Customs, we are building an integrated inspection facility both at a central location and a decentralized one,” Osinga said. So far, he revealed, the SmartGate Cargo database is ready for launch and the Customs Control Center has been built. Osinga said Customs officials are now in the process of purchasing the necessary equipment for the center. Despite the frenzy of excitement surrounding SmartGate Cargo, 2012 has been a relatively mediocre year for Schiphol Airport. Although the airport celebrated a series of successes — including the commencement of Air China Cargo’s five-times-weekly service in September — cargo traffic has declined 3 percent, year-over-year. Even so, Osinga said this figure, which reflects general market malaise, is actually quite impressive for a European airport. “The positive side is that, whereas we’re 3-percent down, most of our major, big competitors seem to be 10-percent down, [year-over-year],” Osinga told Air Cargo World. He believes the distinction lies in Schiphol Cargo’s strategy. Instead of waiting for business to come to the airport, he said Schiphol is actively seeking market share in high-growth sectors, including pharmaceutical transportation. Osinga said the airport is also concerned with bolstering Amsterdam’s presence in the global freight-forwarding industry. “There’s an interesting study out there about the selection process of an airline for an airport,” Osinga said. “The outcome, ultimately, was that the airlines go where the forwarders are. Our strategy has been to get the forwarders to Schiphol, which we’ve done.” He admits that some forwarders are reluctant to set up air-side facilities at Schiphol right now because of the delicate economic situation. But once the market rebounds, Osinga’s confident that forwarders will set up shop at Schiphol. “The focus is on Amsterdam at the moment,” he said, “and our strategy is paying off.” What’s less certain is how 2013 will pan out, Osinga said. Will China regain its market share in the global cargo arena? Will the European debt crisis be resolved? “I don’t think anybody knows,” he said. “I think the key thing is to focus an operation on the different scenarios.” He said Schiphol’s ready for whatever transpires: stagnancy or extreme market growth. If the latter comes true, Osinga said, Schiphol Cargo has the resources and infrastructure to handle the influx of traffic. He revealed the airport is also planning to build a “very high-tech” trucking facility that will expedite the movement of cargo. “This is the time to invest in infrastructure because the building industry is low,” Osinga told Air Cargo World. “So quite frankly, when you want you invest, you can get good deals now.”Source: Air Cargo News, Kforsythe
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