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   Vol. 17 No. 37
Thursday June 21, 2018

Show Us Your Pain, India Tells Air Cargo

     “We have met the enemy and it is us,” is the air cargo industry response to India government talk, but there is little action!
     Sure, on paper and in the media, the Indian government—or rather, the civil aviation ministry—is all for pushing ahead to boost air cargo, but elsewhere powerful pressures, including simple indifference to promises and pledges, are working to put brakes on advancing air cargo in India.

Madurai Airport Case In Point

     A recent case has highlighted the usual problem of governmental red tape.
     Madurai Airport in the south, an international airport, is connected to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Sharjah, Singapore, and Colombo.
     The ‘Temple City’ airport is known for the export of jasmine flowers (the Madurai Malli) and perishables like vegetables.
     In fact, the first consignment of 300 kg of Madurai Malli was taken by a SpiceJet flight to Dubai on December 15, 2017 (the international cargo terminal was inaugurated on November 28, 2017).

Forwarder Sues For Service

     Freight forwarder S. A. Sayeed (Director - Operations, ABS Xpress Private Ltd) filed A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Madras (Chennai) High Court, which mentions that the absence of an officer responsible for issuing the mandatory plant protection certificate had affected the exports of flowers and other perishables.
     “Ninety percent of the cargo handled are perishable agricultural products consisting mainly of vegetables, flowers such as roses, and Madurai Malli,” the PIL said, adding that more than 100 metric tons of cargo was being handled at Madurai since the international air cargo terminal started functioning.

Headless Quarantine Office

     The airport has a Plant Quarantine Office but there is no officer to head it. Flowers require phytosanitary certificates and the Agriculture Ministry-controlled plant quarantine office has to issue an official document.
     As a result, freight forwarders/exporters have to undertake a 900-km journey to the Chennai regional office for a certificate that is valid for only 24 hours.
     The petition said that while this had put a brake on flower exports from Madurai, it would cause losses to the airport, the government, and the exporters.
     Reports state that the Madurai airport director had brought this to the attention of the concerned authorities consistently over the last five months, but nothing happened.

Big Talk No Listen

     Repeated assurances from the civil aviation ministry that it is keen to see India’s current 35th ranking in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index go up higher are underscored by assurances from Vandana Aggarwal, Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, declaring that the government and the ministry are “open to suggestions from the air cargo industry.
     “I can learn from you where you think things need to change,” are words that seem to fall flat in the cold light of reality.

Show Us The Pain

     Among the stated top priorities of the civil aviation ministry are the improvement of regional connectivity, e-transportation, e-compliance, and the setting up of a grievances body. We are told the main aim of these initiatives is to reduce the cost of logistics from 13-14 percent of the national GDP to roughly 9 percent by 2022.
     “You tell us where the pain point is and we’ll do our best to remove it,” Aggarwal had said.
     “The government is your silent partner.
     “This is reality, not just empty words,” she declared.
     Aggarwal was also quoted saying that the government had an ambitious dream: take India to the 15th position in the Logistics Performance Index by 2020.

Time May Be Running Out

     Now that the Narendra Modi-led government has barely a year more of its tenure before India goes for a national poll, it has to push through all the initiatives that have been launched.
     But amidst all the talk and lack of action, time may be running out this go ‘round.

UDAN Scheme

     During the last four years of the government, The Civil Aviation Ministry has moved ahead to boost infrastructure not only to facilitate the government’s Regional Connectivity Scheme, better known as Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (Let the common man fly, or UDAN) but also to accommodate the growing traffic: both passenger and cargo.
     It is a mammoth task for the state-controlled Airports Authority of India (AAI).

CAPA Weighs In

     In fact, the CAPA India Aviation Outlook 2017/18 pointed out that there was surging traffic, but infrastructure constraints had become critical and mentioned that the Ministry of Civil Aviation deserved significant recognition for actively consulting and engaging with the industry, which was starting to yield results.
     It went on to emphasize:
     “The strategy of engagement and taking accountability is highly welcome and demonstrates a commitment to listening to problems and developing solutions.”

Time To Seize The Moment

     India needs to seize the opportunity because the potential exists.
     Witness the growth.
     According to statistics from AAI, total freight traffic registered a CAGR of 7.08 percent over FY06-17.
     During FY06-17, domestic freight traffic increased at a CAGR of 7.95 percent, while international freight traffic grew at a CAGR of 6.58 percent during the same period.
     In FY17, domestic freight traffic stood at 1,123.18 million tons, while international freight traffic was at 1,855.06 million tons.
     The projection is that by 2023, total freight traffic will reach 4.14 million tons exhibiting growth at a CAGR of 7.27 percent between FY2016 and FY23.
     In addition, international freight traffic will grow at a CAGR of 7.13 percent while domestic freight traffic will be expected to grow at a CAGR 7.50 percent between FY2016 and FY23.
Tirthankar Ghosh

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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