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Perishables are a growing source of cargo revenue in Dubai. Bernd Struck, dnata’s senior vice president for UAE Cargo and DWC airline services, talks to Joe Bates.

How important is cargo to the success of dnata?

We have continually expanded our global cargo operations in recent years and today provide quality and reliable cargo handling services at 45 airports in 12 countries. In financial year 2018/19, our teams moved 3.1 million tons of cargo, 85% more than in financial year 2014/15.   

Our international airport operations and UAE airport operations business units, which also look after ground and passenger handling services, account for 52% of dnata’s total revenue.

How many tons of freight did you handle in Dubai in 2018 and what is the outlook for this year?

In financial year 2018/19 our teams handled 727,000 tons of cargo at the two Dubai airports, Dubai International (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC). Besides processing general cargo, we are experts at handling sea/air cargo, live animals ranging from crocodiles, sharks and race horses to domestic pets, perishables, dangerous goods, pharmaceuticals, express courier, out of gauge cargo (helicopters, pipes, other project equipment), racing cars and vintage cars.

The top two trade lanes we service are Europe and the Indian subcontinent, although we have substantial movement with other lanes, too, including the Middle East, CIS, Far East and Africa.

The outlook for air cargo is optimistic in 2019. We see increased demand for our quality services and expect further growth towards the end of the fiscal year (March 2020) thanks to the Dubai EXPO, which will take place between October 2020 and April 2021. We will be upgrading our facilities and services at DWC to cater to the needs of the event.


How important to the cargo/logistics side of your business is the handling of perishables?

Speed, reliability and controlled conditions have made air cargo the preferred mode of transport for temperature-sensitive cargo.  There is a clear need for increased capacity to handle perishables and we constantly invest in infrastructure, equipment and technologies to meet the growing demand.

Our temperature-sensitive cargo handling centres are great at dealing with loose and intact cargo, with build-up and break down requirements – as well as dedicated storage facilities for goods such as fresh frozen and chilled fruit, meat, vegetables and flowers.

Please tell us more about your facilities for handling perishable shipments at DXB?

As a company established in Dubai, high temperatures are part of our heritage. Therefore, we are very experienced in protecting temperature-sensitive cargo from the heat.

Our facility at Dubai International Airport covers an area of 10,000 square metres and is capable of processing 150,000 tons of perishable cargo a year. It enables us to offer an uncompromised chilled and frozen storage and cool chain product to our airline customers in Dubai, catering to product categories including fresh fruit, meat and pharmaceuticals.

The facility was designed and built with flexibility and unique product handling requirements in mind, taking advantage of the latest cold storage technologies and designs.

The cold storage areas in the centre are modular, enabling teams to manage changing handling demands with dedicated climate control capability. A web-based monitoring system is also in place to facilitate real-time management of all areas.

We use state-of-the-art equipment across our operations. Our Cool Dollies, for instance, provide on request temperature-controlled transport between warehouse and aircraft. This helps us handle each consignment with special care and protects shipments from extreme temperatures on the tarmac.

In 2018 our teams handled approximately 137,000 tons of perishable cargo in our facility at Dubai International, which represents 19% growth year-on-year.


What type of perishables do you handle on a regular basis and how seasonal is this market?

We handle pharmaceuticals year-round. We are highly focused on providing our customers with enhancements in the safety and security of their pharma shipments. We use the latest technology, best practices and certified warehouses to ensure that every pharma and vaccine shipment that reaches the end consumer is handled in compliance with international certified standards.

Fresh fruits, vegetables and meat are other commodities we handle throughout the year to cater to the domestic and regional market.

Currently we see a surge in the import and transit of mangoes from the Indian subcontinent to Europe and the United Kingdom. We have also started a new lane of business importing cherries from Uzbekistan to meet the seasonal demand, and we anticipate moving 500 tons while the season lasts. Beans from Oman to Japan is another seasonal product we have been handling for years.

We also handle imports of various food products from Europe for major supermarket chains.

Do you have any plans to upgrade/expand your perishable cargo facilities?

The past couple of years have seen a steady delivery of initiatives to optimise our operations, covering facility improvements, process changes, infrastructure upgrades and IT developments.

Our operations at DXB has been awarded IATA’s Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) certification. This means that we have proven our capability to manage the movement of pharmaceutical products safely and reliably, under the strictest standards.  Currently our team is working on CEIV certification for our facility at DWC.

To support our continued growth and safety in perishable handling we have also made significant investments in technology. In March, for example, we became the first operation to implement a global roll-out of dnata’s ‘One Cargo’ terminal operation suite across all our stations. This investment will enable us to manage our air cargo movement worldwide seamlessly and have all our operations on one cargo management IT platform using unified processes.

The system will be gradually implemented, and by 2020, will have a user base of over 5,000 employees across 27 stations in 10 countries.

We’ve also recently implemented a cutting-edge, cloud-based software platform, too, which enables freight forwarders, agents and airlines to plan all land transport processes with us more efficiently. This solution is the first of its kind in the aviation cargo industry.


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