Vol. 9  No. 79                                                     WE COVER THE WORLD                                         Monday June 28, 2010

Frankfurt International Airport Faces Night Closure

June 24, 2010 was a remarkably important day for the German air freight industry. At 9:30 am, seven leading managers of the logistics and cargo industry sat together at Frankfurt Airport’s Sheraton Hotel to give birth to an initiative called “Die Fracht braucht die Nacht”—“Cargo Needs The Night.”
     These seven managers hailed from The Association of German Freight Forwarders and Logistics Operators (DSLV), the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL), the Forwarding and Logistics Association of Hessen/Rheinland-Pfalz, the Board of Airline Representatives in Germany (BARIG), the Air Cargo Club Germany (ACD) and Lufthansa Cargo.
     It was the first time that the industry joined forces to better conditions for achieving optimized transport conditions and prevent airports in Germany from being forced to switch off their lights for six or seven hours each night.
     Initiator of the new pact is Lufthansa Cargo, which fears having to scrap its business model if the carrier’s global hub in Frankfurt is closed between 11pm and 5am when runway number four is inaugurated in fall 2011.
“Germany is the world’s second-largest exporter – thanks above all to its logistics expertise. Anyone who shuts down central logistics hubs at night is acting irresponsibly and putting the future viability of Germany’s export industry at risk,” said Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa Cargo CEO and Chairman.
     At this time, Germany has some of the most rigid flight restrictions when it comes to night flights, which threatens Germany’s ability to compete with less strictly-controlled cargo hubs such as Paris,
Madrid, Amsterdam and London and especially the Gulf, which directly competes for transcontinental business between Asia and Europe and Asia and America.
     Herr Spohr, speaking on behalf of the initiative called on the federal government to intervene, and the topic is pending a Federal Court’s decision, which is expected for spring of next year.
     Air Cargo News FlyingTypers exclusively interviewed Ewald Heim, the newly enthroned Managing Director of the night flight initiative. Herr Heim is a veteran of the cargo industry having worked for many years for Lufthansa Cargo, forwarder Rhenus, and logistics provider Panalpina where he acted as director air freight before retiring last year. He is back on deck again with his new job at the initiative

ACNFT: Are you like a modern Don Quixote, fighting vigorously but hopelessly against windmills—pardon—night flight restrictions at German airports?
EH: Nice comparison, but wrong. We have a very serious problem in Germany with local or state courts deciding increasingly in favor of noise restrictions at airports, especially concerning traffic during night hours.
     This has caused cuts in flight operations at a number of our international airports or banned traffic during critical times between late evening and early morning. Take Berlin International, which, according to plans, will see its first arrival of an aircraft in exactly two years. Although located outside the city’s boundaries, the place will have to shut its gates at night due to a court decision. Consequently, the German capital will cut off passenger and cargo traffic entirely during nighttimes.
ACNFT: What spurs your hopes that your initiative can change things for the better?
EH: We’ve just set up our organization, so it’s too early to say what we may realistically achieve and how long this might take. But right on top of our agenda is our aim to sit down with leading politicians and government members to elucidate the night flight topic.
      I think we’ve got some highly convincing arguments to discuss with them. The fact is that the former coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats had already announced plans to change the laws for enabling traffic at night at German airports if this service is valued as a matter of national interest. That government, however, had decided nothing until its term ended last fall. The newly built Berlin coalition, which consists of Conservatives and Liberals, also promised right from the start to amend the laws in favor of fair traffic solutions that include the interests of the industry, but regrettably there have been no results so far.
     As things stand today, nobody can really blame the judges for banning noise by restricting operations during the critical hours at German airports.
     Their opting in favor of the dwellers is understandable considering the legislative and law situation. But the consequences are bitter for the entire nation, because our logistics sector is crippled piece by piece. It is Germany’s third biggest industry right after retail and automotive, contributing 10 percent to our national product.
     If more night flight restrictions are imposed, shippers and their forwarders have no alternative but to use airports like Amsterdam, Liege or Paris CDG to have their air freight lifted. I’m highly convinced that a rational discussion will lead to a climate change in this country and to new or amended laws that are in line with the necessities of the airport neighbors and the German industry. It is possible to balance the legitimate interests of both groups involved. So to finally answer your question: no, I don’t feel at all like a modern Mr. Quixote.
ACNFT: How do you explain that hardly anybody protests against the noise of freight trains running continuously during day and night hours every five minutes through heavily populated places, or against Autobahns linking German cities? Instead, air traffic seems to be public enemy number one when it comes to noise and pollution. Any ideas?
EH: The reason might be that most people drive cars themselves and use trains more or less frequently to get from A to B. When it comes to air traffic there is a lot of prejudice and irrationality that influences people’s behavior. It seems that many don’t know that manufacturers like Boeing or Airbus, together with turbine producers, brought noise emissions down to a remarkably low level. This is exactly one point on our initiative’s program: to inform the public of these things.
ACNFT: How many jobs are at stake if the Federal Court decides against the 24/7 opening of Rhein/Main and Frankfurt is shut down during night hours?
EH: The exact number is speculative, but thousands of jobs will be lost.
     This includes carriers, forwarding and handling agents, and also logistics people in import and export department warehouses run by the shipping industry. The consequences will be very severe because many forwarders will pack their bags and move from Frankfurt’s Cargo City South to Amsterdam, Paris or other airports where shipments are flown in and out around the clock. It’s an illusion to believe that they are going to stay in Frankfurt if the mass of their freight is being routed via other airports. The agents have made it very clear that splitting up their operation between Frankfurt and some other European cargo hub binds too much capital and is therefore not a viable option.
Heiner Siegmund

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Click On Image Below To Access