Thursday, October 29, 2020

Kerala airfreighters feel the heat as Center sticks to its new cargo policy


Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala based airfreight exporters of perishable goods stare a bleak future as Centre refused to change the policy of restricting the operations of foreign ad hoc and pure non-scheduled freighter charter service flights to 6 airports, namely Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Mumbai in the country.  In response to plea of the Air Cargo Agents Association of India (ACAAI), a body of airfreight forwarders which has a strength of around 600 members, the Centre made clear that the decision was taken as part of protecting the interest of domestic airlines. 

The centre in its reply to the exporters has made clear that the Open Sky Policy for foreign cargo carriers is taken as per the policy decision by the Ministry of Civil Aviation with a view to ensure fair and equal opportunity in the air cargo capacity offered by Indian registered airlines and airlines registered elsewhere. These restrictions are only for ad hoc and pure non-scheduled freighter charter services and not for the Scheduled Freighter Services, which operate under the Air Services Agreements with respective Countries. However, in view of the policy decision by the Ministry, no action can be taken by DGCA, the reply said.

Despite four Airports, Kerala is out of the cargo network and weekly export of perishable goods chiefly vegetable and marine products has plummeted to around 250 tonne from 1000 tonne. According to K Suresh Kumar, chairman of ACAAI, th airports in the state have been handling mainly the exports of highly perishables like fresh vegetables, fruits and Marine products and the shelf life of these products are very limited. Unlike the general cargo these items cannot be moved to other airports like Chennai or Bangaluru, which will result in longer transit time and at a higher logistic cost, he said. 

"Though scheduled freighter services are allowed, Emirates and Qatar airways, which handle bulk of the cargo to EU, Far East and US from the state, have been operating non-scheduled and ad hoc freighter services to Trivandrum and Cochin airports, which are now not permitted to be operated. Scheduled freighters, which carry more than 100 tons, are not feasible from Cochin or Trivandrum airports, since we do not have much general cargo. Scheduled freighters are usually operated for general cargo. In Trivandrum and Cochin both Emirates and Qatar used to operate smaller freighters, which can carry 50 to 60 tons. These non-scheduled ad hoc freighters are most suitable to our airports in Kerala," he said.

29/10/20 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express

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