It’s not surprising to people in the logistics business that the air cargo industry is expected to grow a robust six percent a year through 2019. The continuing expansion of the world’s air cargo industry – fueled by e-commerce, international trade and remote out-sourcing for manufacturers – creates headlines every week.
There’s a new $11 billion air cargo facility under construction in Istanbul, Turkey. There’s also a new cargo terminal being built at the airport in Mumbai, India. A new air cargo service will link Belgium to Angola, where an oil industry needs equipment. And the Australian airline Qantas is launching an air cargo service linking Australia and China to Texas.
While the impressive expansion of international air freight capability creates opportunity to ship more goods by air, it also creates a challenge as demand for cargo space rises: How do shippers with special challenges – remote destinations, oversized machinery, fragile equipment — get their freight moved at the right time and the right price in a safe and secure manner?
“The pressure’s on everybody in our business to find more timely and cost-effective flight and delivery schedules — often to parts of the world where air routes are new or only recently established,” said Chris Cser, Director of International at ICAT Logistics Detroit.
While new markets mean new customers, new suppliers, new trade routes and new challenges, they also create new opportunities. To reduce costs and save time, some shippers are bypassing warehousing and distribution centers, going directly from air terminals at the point of entry to one or more final destinations either by truck, rail or smaller short distance regional flights.
When transportation to outlying areas is difficult because of inadequate infrastructure, freight and parts deliveries may go from international airports by truck to various local hubs where end-users at hard-to-reach locations are responsible for picking up their own orders.
“Changes like these can complicate a shipment and are best handled by experienced shippers with a tight-knit network of partners in all parts of the world,” Cser says. “It takes a lot of experience to help customers find their way.”
The trends driving air cargo growth are not likely to slow anytime soon – especially with fuel prices well off their recent highs. Expect the continuing movement toward globalization to break down barriers for freight shippers and producers everywhere. And expect, too, to lean on the most experienced global shippers to find the right solutions.
“In a changing environment like this, don’t expect that there’s a cookie-cutter solution,” Cser says. “Odds are you’ll need a customized approach from your freight forwarder that takes into consideration a growing list of variables.”
Still to come are further ramifications from the Trans Pacific Partnership which was passed by 12 participating countries but has not yet been ratified by the U.S. Congress. Even now, however, the countries who negotiated the agreement have begun making changes to prepare for increased international trade.
“Our industry is always changing,” says Cser. “But the principles of smart shipping are still the same.”
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