Update: Shippers turn to air during Calais chaos
08 / 07 / 2015
Air charter companies have reported a sharp spike in demand for cargo charters and onboard couriers during the recent chaos at the French port of Calais.
London-based Chapman Freeborn Airchartering said that with thousands of goods vehicles stranded due to industrial action by striking ferry workers – which in turn led to an upsurge in migrant stowaways breaking into UK-bound trucks – European manufacturers and freight forwarders have sought air charters to beat the blockade.
Cargo business development director, Pierre van der Stichele, said: “The Calais strike last week had the potential to cripple production for many of our UK-based clients because crucial manufacturing parts were caught up in the shut-down.
"This has resulted in an unseasonable surge in demand for both charter and on board courier services.
“The knock-on effect of the strikes has also been felt by our offices across Europe – particularly our team in Germany which is at the centre of the automotive logistics business.”
Aircraft including Antonov AN-12, Antonov AN-26, ATR 72, Boeing B727F, Dornier Do 228 and MD-11F types have all been pressed into service to airlift time-critical cargo to the UK.
Van der Stichele added: “In today’s charter market it’s almost unheard of use wide-body freighters like MD-11Fs on routes such as Liege to Doncaster – but if that 80 tons of cargo is delayed it can cost the manufacturer millions to suspend the production line.”
Director of cargo at Air Charter Service, Dan Morgan Evans told Air Cargo News that his company had also been “very, very busy” with charters to the UK.
“There’s been a massive spike in numbers, with a lot coming in from east Europe, and on any aircraft that are to hand,” he said.
Virtually all of it was material for the UK automotive industry, fearful of having their production lines shut down, Morgan Evans continued.
Although, at the time of writing, the strikes had ceased, many shippers remained understandably nervous.
Further strikes have been predicted and the Channel Tunnel shuttles and ferries remain vulnerable to other stoppages, such as the death of a stowaway attempting to board a freight shuttle on July 7, which led to services being suspended for a time.
Most of ACS’s charters have flown into Birmingham and Doncaster airports, although it has operated a few short hop shuttles including one from Ostend to Southend.
Rates being charged by airlines for aircraft had, on the whole, been fairly reasonable, with few attempting to exploit the situation, Morgan Evans added.
Logistics companies have been warned that there could be more strikes to come in the dispute over redundancies at the French MyFerryLink company.
And last week Cargolux added an extra flight from Stansted to help ease the backlog of cargo.