Pre-booked orders indicate all is well for heavy-lift, project air cargo market

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Maritime  

- By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTThe ad-hoc nature of heavy lift, oversized and project cargo requires exceptional planning and customer relations. It entails scrambling to find the right aircraft at the right time, figuring out how to quickly load odd-shaped cargo onto aircraft, and oftentimes landing at remote and unfamiliar airports.
That’s why when Polet Cargo Airlines was contacted by a major US manufacturer to move its satellite from Washington Dulles International Airport to French Guyana, the carrier jumped through multiple hoops to ensure the job went like clock work.
While the move did not occur until last November, its planning began in early January 2007. “That’s because the move required preliminary planning and preparation with the customer. Not only was it an oversized piece of equipment that needs to be shipped in a container, some parts were very hazardous,” recalls Dmitry Avdeev, MBA, sales manager for Polet Airlines. “Much of that requires more oversight.”
This particular contact was Polet’s first with this customer. It required special loading equipment to facilitate safe handling of the satellite onto and off of the aircraft.
Normally, Polet can organize such a move in a matter of days. “But given the fact this was a new customer and the shipment involved a delicate transportation, we decided to take our time,” Avdeev remarks.
That’s largely because of behind-the-scenes tasks that must also be preformed. “Shipments like these that involve hazardous materials require government permits,” he explains.
Like all heavy lift, oversized air cargo, the job is highly complex. “The entry barriers are high in this market,” states Alexey Ozerov, head of Polet’s New York office. “The fact that we have experience in this area for the last 15 years gives us the necessary knowledge that allows us to operate smoothly and without incident.”
HEALTHY ESTIMATED GROWTHGiven the increase in shipments by governments, oil exploration companies, and manufacturers and orders that are already budgeted for and pre-booked, indicators estimate that the oversized/heavy lift market for air freight will continue to grow six to seven percent annually worldwide.
Polet experienced a seven percent increase in tonnage in 2007 with total shipments weighing in at 59.4 million pounds in 2006 versus 64 million pounds in 2007.
“We are pre-booked for the next three months, something that did not happen last year or a few years ago,” Ozerov reveals.
Ad hoc business is especially growing fast at about five percent annually with the government sector worldwide growing even faster over previous years. Growth for the Middle East is estimated to experience nine to 10% growth over coming years; Asia (especially China and India), seven to eight percent annually; the United States, six to seven percent; Russia, five to six percent; and Europe, four to five percent. Africa is even showing potential to realize five percent annual growth. These estimates are confirmed based on Polet’s pre-booked business.
“We actually expect the Russia market to grow eight to 10% next year,” Ozerov states.
To capture additional European business, Polet is opening a sales office in Munich, Germany, to complement its Cyprus office.
While this good news for project carriers, it’s also a negative for shippers/freight forwarders. For example, the day AJOT interviewed Ozerov, he revealed he had received a call from an agent in Dallas-Fort Worth who needed a flight for Chicago for a heavy lift shipment that same day. Polet could not accommodate him, so the shipment had to be transported by truck, a journey that takes approximately 48 hours.
EXPANDING FLEETSLike all air carriers, however, companies in the heavy lift oversized arena are currently challenged by today’s high costs for fuel, labor and aircraft maintenance.
Polet operates a young fleet of six Antonov AN-124-100 aircraft. Two more are expected to become operational in the near future once modification from the military ve

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American Journal of Transportation