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   Vol. 19 No. 29
Friday April 10, 2020
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     Massimo Roccasecca is Group Cargo Director, Chief Executive GDA Handling, of SAVE S.p.A. with responsibility for Venice, Verona, Brescia and Treviso Airports.
     Mr. Roccasecca has been a global air cargo icon for the past 30-plus years having served at UPS, TNT, Alitalia, Oman Airports, and elsewhere.
     “Luck was on my side,” writes Marco Sorgetti from his home in Turin, Italy. “I managed to ask Massimo questions about the situation in Italy, and the special circumstances in which the air transport business finds itself. Mr. Roccasecca was kind enough to share some revealing insights in these times."

Massimo and Gregario Roccasecca

Logistics Island in a Stormy Sea?

     “The threat to international trade represented by the epidemic appears to be growing in intensity,” Massimo Roccasecca declared.
     “The Italian government seemed to be directed to keep the freight sector out of the restrictions on mobility; however, is it realistic that the logistics sector continues its work without repercussions, like an island in the middle of a stormy sea, without mentioning the unrest spontaneously starting in the manufacturing industry?”

We are Determined

     “I believe that after a rather confusing first phase on what remedies were to be put in place (probably due to the lack of awareness of the seriousness and size of this epidemic), today in Italy we have reached maximum determination.
     “The only possible next step would be the total and absolute stoppage of the entire country, with consequences that would make you shiver.
     “The growth of the unrest is more than understandable given the worsening of the situation.”

Lessons for the Future

     “We are human beings and we talk about the health of individuals, but unnecessary collective hysteria must also be avoided.
     “What is certain, however, any controversy aside, is that this emergency must serve as a lesson for the future.”

Where were China Warnings?

     “Although I understand the initial bewilderment that we have seen, as a citizen even more than as a businessman who travels frequently, I find it surprising that in China where the virus seems to have originated, so much time passed without the right alarms being launched.
     “Nowadays, with the mobility to which the world has become accustomed, perhaps the sense of responsibility of each individual could have been more developed.”

Can we make a correction?

     “Unfortunately, in this emergency we are sort of playing things by ear. The situation changes by the hour. The corrections, if at all necessary, will have to be implemented according to how the situation evolves.”

Could Cargo be Halted Altogether?

     “Should the contagion curve continue to rise, I hope not.
     “But I do not rule out the possibility of reaching the extreme solution of a total blockade of goods.
     “Having said that, however, I spontaneously ask myself how sale points can be supplied with basic necessities. If up to now the logistic chain has not been blocked, it is also for this reason.”

No Country is Independent

     “Including the many friends and colleagues we have in this industry, we are all part of a complex system we call the logistics chain.
     “It is clear that in the last few weeks we have all been involved in the analysis, verification, and implementation of all possible measures.
     “Still, in these hours, further scenarios are looming which will surely have an impact on transportation, the air sector in particular. But it is good that we know exactly what we are facing.
     “In today's globalized society, no country can be said to be completely independent from the rest of the world.”

Can Cargo Come Back Quickly?

     “Unfortunately, no,” Massimo Roccasecca states flatly.
     “Once the emergency has passed, there will be an immediate reaction from the whole market, but the damage we have now is enormous.
     “The recovery times of the sector will be protracted.”

Will Recovery Work Copying China?

     “As previously stated, I cannot say whether there really is an ‘ideal’ model.
     “Any model, Chinese, European, American, etc. . . . transposed out of its context risks losing its effectiveness.
     “Moreover, the contexts are profoundly different, as are the lifestyles in the different societies.”

Unify World Health

     “On the contrary, I believe a basic ‘single’ model is needed with regard to world health standards.
     “Let me offer a trivial example: Restaurants all over the world have standards, rules, and laws that regulate the minimum hygiene requirements to which they must comply.
     “Yet they are very different from each other and what you see in one country, perhaps in another is ignored.
     “But then, traveling, you eat in both.
     “Or even eat at the food stall on the street.
     “The issue is very vast and complex.”

How Will Airport Pax Closures Hinder Cargo?

     As I said before, the total closure of a system, of a country, leads to serious consequences.
     “We must take this into account.
     “This is our role towards politics, governments, and institutions: to act as a center of competency even in times of emergency, which we are currently experiencing.”

Lighten Dependency on Mega Hubs

     “In context of the current situation, it is evident that [dependence on] mega hubs (like London, Frankfurt, Paris, Istanbul, etc.) are critical factors.
     “Too much concentration, in my opinion, is always a potential risk.
     “I am not saying that we must eliminate mega hubs, but certainly a different strategy, that can ‘lighten’ their role is necessary as never before.
     “I fully understand,” Massimo assures, “the economic logic that has favored this development and growth over the past 20-30 years, but I am not so sure it will still be valid in the future, at least not in these dimensions.”

Half Empty Cathedrals

     “The current, very serious crisis facing hundreds of thousands of large shopping malls all over the world—the same malls that in the last 20-30 years have slowly replaced the small retail stores, decreeing their near extinction—are today half-empty cathedrals themselves.
     “There seems to me to be an alarm bell ringing over our dependency on mega hubs,” Massimo Roccasecca declared.
Marco Sorgetti
Editor's Note: Reading Massimo's comments reminded me of the words that also served as title to the Ernest Hemingway novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”:
     “If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

chuckles for April 9, 2020

Project Airbridge Not AirbridgeCargo

On Sunday, March 29th, Atlas Air operated the first flight for Project Airbridge from Shanghai, China into New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
     The flight carried 130,000 N-95 masks; nearly 1.8 million surgical masks and gowns; more than 10.3 million gloves; and more than 70,000 thermometers.
     The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “Project Airbridge” effort to move critical supplies into the U.S. continues at fever pitch via more than 70 all cargo flights scheduled during April alone, utilizing aircraft of only U.S. Flag—UPS, FedEx, Atlas Air and some others.
     Currently emergency medical cargo is moving from China, Malaysia, Mexico, Honduras and elsewhere to Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, plus into integrator hubs in Columbus and Louisville.

No AirBridgeCargo

     A sidebar to all of this is an all-cargo airline with lots of freighters and 18 of the newest B747-8Fs in the world, AirBridgeCargo (ABC) that apparently is not part of Project Airbridge.
     The company, at last count with a fleet of 21 B747Fs: six B747-400Fs and 18 B747-8Fs, has been under increasing pressure as it reportedly recorded losses of over USD$100 million in 2019.
     So looking to right its business as the world turns, ABC, we suppose, is undoubtedly busy right now utilizing its mighty freighter fleet elsewhere in this very needy coronavirus-infected world.

FEMA Freighters Full

     The FEMA-led freighter effort has come under some criticism by U.S. House of Representatives Democrat lawmakers questioning the relief process.
     Undoubtedly in the rush to do good during a unique time in the history of the U.S., some fault in the process will be found by lawmakers and others.

Days of Future Past

     The Project Airbridge charters of today are reminiscent of the way the aerial China trade first grew in the 1980s with B747-200s flying into Asia empty and returning full of cargo, able to make profits with essentially one-way traffic.

Signal from Noise Simple as ABC

     We wonder, (unless there is a rule that under any circumstance a foreign flag cannot carry FEMA traffic) that AirbridgeCargo Airlines, which today operates 18 of the best, most economically viable U.S.-built B-7478s is not part of the FEMA-led Project Airbridge?
     We hear all day long, how Boeing is a most valuable U.S. manufacturing asset.
     Well, those freighters that are being operated by ABC, kept an awful lot of people in Seattle building airplanes, and the assembly line of the B747 open and running when it otherwise might have been shut down.
     Something about fair is fair, comes to mind here.

The Art of the Deal

     A source told FlyingTypers, “Perhaps this is not just an aircraft issue, but also the airport ground handling, space and road networks which in this case are easier if thrown into the integrator networks.
     “As example, not having to worry about who is going to load in China, when you have your own equipment and staff could in this case make things less difficult.”
     However we wonder if the U.S. did get the best deal for those 72 or who knows how many more relief flights upcoming in 2020?

Do the Math

     One statement in the UPS press release about their 25-flight deal with Project Airbridge stands out:
     “The first charter flights have already arrived, and will continue for the next two weeks.
     “In total, the 25 UPS-managed flights will carry more than three million pounds of materials – the equivalent of 14 full Boeing 747 freighters.”
     So we thought about that one for a moment and wondered:
     Why would anyone book 25 flights on UPS or anybody else for that matter, when it appears that booking the same tonnage on 14 AirBridgeCargo B747-8F frequencies could save the rough equivalent cost of 11 flights?
     Perhaps the aircraft filled with masks and robes and plastic gloves cube out before they weight out?
     UPS offered an explanation:
     “There are a variety of aircraft being used: 767, MD-11, 777, 747-400 and -8, a combination of UPS aircraft, and third party carriers we have chartered.
     “That also explains the 25 flights/14 747 equivalent question, as some of the aircraft are smaller than a 747.”

     In any case, FEMA, fair to say, might have spread the wealth and saved some money at the same time.

Operations will Continue

     Meanwhile, amidst reports the flights will probably be extended beyond the current number, UPS, for its part, seems to have landed the major share of the action.
     UPS said that it will also dedicate space for FEMA in its new healthcare facility in Louisville.

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Hyderabad Pharma Zone

  Before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the three-week lockdown at 8:00 pm on March 24, freighter movement—without any restrictions—had been allowed. Soon after the announcement, the government has accorded permission to private airlines to operate passenger planes only with cargo.

Now Comes One-Time Access

  To facilitate movement of medicines and essential goods (in the lockdown the railways have been stopped and so has road transport) that have been getting stuck due to a blanket ban by states on transport of goods, the government has set up the Logistics and Suppliers committee.
  The committee has ordered that transporters be allowed to move goods through state and police check-posts with a one-time clearance.

DR. P. D. Vaghela and Pradeep Singh Kharola

   Heading the committee are Civil Aviation Secretary (the top bureaucrat in the aviation ministry) Pradeep Singh Kharola (above right) and Pharma Secretary Dr. P. D. Vaghela (above left).
  In addition, the civil aviation ministry has put in place an air cargo management group which will look into the movement of essential commodities across the country.

The Committee

  “An Air cargo management group for COVID-19 has been created with a dedicated team for smooth movement of cargo.
  “Ministry is adopting a hub & spoke approach to move essential commodities across the country,” said the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
  It also pointed out that “private airlines/freighters have been co-opted to link the request of States/UTs for smooth movement of essential items.
  “Additionally, ATRs of Alliance Air have been kept on standby at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad,” the Ministry declared.

Hyderabad Airport Shines

  Even as the country battles shortages and clears supply lines, Hyderabad Airport’s air cargo unit is keeping the vital link of essential supplies fully alive and operational.
  The gateway described as an essential service, GMR Hyderabad Airport has been working round the clock in close coordination with the Customs, Ground Handlers, Forwarders, CHAs (Customs House Agents), Regulators, State Police, Cargo Trade associations, to keep the critical chain of essential supplies like medicines, medical equipment, pharma material, etc. seamlessly.
  Currently, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo is handling more than 100 tons of export and import cargo daily.
  Of this, over 70 percent of the consignment comprises pharma and essential products.

Global Connections

  Hyderabad is currently handling 11 freighters weekly along with some special cargo charters, which connect Hyderabad with all major international destinations in the United States of America, European countries, Middle East, Africa, Far East, etc. are moving emergency supplies.
  On the job are 200-odd dedicated staff on every shift.
  Despite the cross border lockdown, with the help of regulators, domestic cargo from Hyderabad Airport is flying to the southern part of the country, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, and also bridging the other states viz. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, among others with vital cargo supplies.
Tirthankar Ghosh

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