Dirk Schusdziara: Frankfurt Airport, a dedicated voice for cargo
19 / 06 / 2017
Frankfurt Airport once more has a cargo manager, Dirk Schusdziara, whose title is senior vice president cargo at the airport’s owners, Fraport. The company might bridle at the idea that there was a period when it didn’t take cargo as seriously as it might, but certainly for some years it handled cargo as part of the airport’s real estate.
But last year, Schusdziara says, Fraport took a strategic decision to create – or re-create – a dedicated cargo team. “This department has been built so that we can look at processes and the market for cargo,” he says. “We are the mediators to bring people together over the whole process.”
There are now ten in the cargo department, but by no means are all of them new. “They have been around for many years – I don’t want to say ‘doing their own thing’ but it was difficult to know who to go to in the past,” comments Robert Payne, Fraport’s head of international press and global activities.
“We have now created a single voice. Before Dirk was appointed, everything was more distant, but now everyone is working together.
“We are starting to see the benefits of this.”
The rise of belly cargo, as capacious next generation widebodies come into service, has made such a role only more important.
Traditionally an airport cargo manager might have seen his job as to attract freighters, while the main marketing team at the airport chased passenger carriers, but cargo now is seen as an important part of passenger route decisions too.
“They have found that cargo is a very important process and complementary to the passenger side,” says Schusdziara. “55% of our cargo is still in freighters, but the rest is in bellies and it is very important for the route development of passenger flights.”
Both men deny that there is an element of imitating the successful model of Amsterdam in all this: “Of course we look at other airports and benchmark ourselves, and each airport has its strengths,” says Payne. “We look at what everyone is doing, not just in Europe but in airports around the world.
“But we are not copying. If anything, other airports are copying us. It is more getting back to our own roots and core strategies and synergies.”
As an example of Frankfurt’s distinctive approach, Schusdziara points to the Air Cargo Innovation Lab event to be held in Frankfurt from Sept-ember 27-28 in collaboration with Air Cargo News owner DVV. “It will be a totally different format to the usual, a goldfish bowl concept,” he says. “We want to bring companies together to exchange innovative ideas.”
The event aims to examine how shippers believe the air cargo sector could improve, how new market entrants might shake up the industry, and how best to capitalise on such developments.
“Participants will be encouraged to take part in what will be a series of lively debates and networking opportunities to understand what the future of air cargo logistics will look like,” Schusdziara says.
While freighters still carry over half of the cargo at Frankfurt, he admits that belly cargo might see stronger growth in the future.
“Freighter traffic should still grow, but at a slower rate than belly,” he says.
This will be boosted by passenger terminal three, which is now being developed on an adjacent site to CargoCity South. Below ground work is currently being done, with construction above ground due to start next year. The terminal is due to open in 2022.
As for attracting more freighter operators, you might think that Frankfurt in any case already has all the major all-cargo airlines in the world landing on its runways. After all, it is the supreme cargo airport for Europe and the logical first port of call for any freighter airline on the continent.
But Payne points out that there are always new freighter operators arising. “The landscape is always changing and new cargo airlines grow up. Some could be small now and grow later. There are cargo operators who are small and regional now but who want to expand to Europe, and we want to be sure that we attract them to Frankfurt.”
If the night time curfew introduced as a condition for the opening of the fourth runway has any effect on potential freighter traffic, the airport is putting a brave face on it. “The limitations of the curfew are there and are just what we have to deal with,” Schusdziara says.
“It is why we are not an integrator airport like Leipzig or Cologne, where you have UPS and DHL. We are very strong in destinations, however. We have more than 300 destinations on bellies and freighters.”
With the runway expansion out of the way, attention can also turn to other projects.
One is expansion of CargoCity South, which opened in 1995 and has become the main cargo area of the airport. This already covers 150 hectares, with 250 companies on site. A further 27 hectares is now being added to this on the southern edge of the site.
Part of this site is already occupied by a 7,000 sq m facility for UTi, which opened last year, as well as Speed Gate, a direct access route to the airside that was opened in 2013 and which enables built-up pallets to go straight from truck to airside, or vice versa.
There are five other lots available, allowing for some 100,000 sq m of facilities in all. Tenders were published last year and Schusdziara says talks are now taking place with interested parties.
The Fraport cargo team is also working with Air Cargo Community Frankfurt, which brings together all the cargo users at the airport, on various process improvement projects.
One is a push to get the whole air cargo chain at the airport CEIV-certified for pharmaceuticals traffic.
Schusdziara says several companies have already got certification and others will follow at the end of the year.
In addition, the airport is automating and digitising processes through [email protected], its Cargo Community System. One project, which went live early in 2015, allows the licence plates of trucks arriving at the airport to be scanned, which then automatically starts the Customs process for all shipments on board.
“The driver can see on his mobile phone the status of the Customs declaration and whether some air waybills have to go to Customs for checking,” says Schusdziara. “He goes to the handler and there is a full upload of air waybills. User rates for this have risen 77% this year, which is really strong growth.”
Cargo traffic figures for the airport are also tentatively moving in the right direction, after a prolonged run of negative monthly figures, which stretched from May last year to March this year. For calendar 2015, throughput was down 2.3% to 2,114,579 tonnes and it was 1% down in the first quarter of this year.
But then April saw 5% growth (partly due to the different timing of Easter), May was only slightly negative and June saw a 3.3% rise.
Schusdziara points to new connections such as CargoLogicAir flying from London to Africa via Frankfurt, and reports good growth out of the Asia Pacific, particularly China. Also, there is an improvement out of Europe, for example to both Russia and Turkey.
Nevertheless, he is fairly cautious about the second half of 2016, expecting to end the year at about the same levels as 2015. “We are quite satisfied with our portfolio. We are in the top ten cargo airports worldwide and it is a position we are trying to keep, as well as to be the best air cargo airport for handling,” he says.