Volcanic ash delay starts to bite deep

THE ash from the Icelandic volcano continues to disrupt aviation, but, as the restrictions on aircraft movements continue, airlines and forwarders are growing increasingly desperate to restart operations.

Alan Braithwaite, chairman of LCP Consulting, said: “The disruption to UK and EU aviation from the Icelandic dust cloud will lead to shortages of product quite quickly for categories like fresh fruit and flowers and then into the pharmaceuticals and hi-tech areas based on limited stock in the chain. If this disruption lasts for another four or five days then there will be selective shortages.

“The airfreight sector, which is just starting to bounce back from a crippling recession, will undoubtedly experience more losses. There have been recent bankruptcies so if this disruption lasts it will be seriously detrimental to the sector.”

Much of the UK’s perishables come from Africa, and producers and forwarders there are already having to destroy their stalled shipments.

“It’s just horrendous, a huge blow to the industry,” said Jane Ngige, chief executive officer of the Kenya Flower Council.

“We’re hoping for the best, but we have to plan for the worst-case scenario that this goes on for several more days,” said Johnnie McMillan, operations director of Vegpro Group in Nairobi.

“If we are unable to ship product by Wednesday, our loss of revenue will be more than £600,000 across our business, flowers and vegetables – and that’s just our company. Everyone’s in the same situation. It’ll have a huge impact on the industry.”

Christopher Snelling, the Freight Transport Association’s head of global supply chain policy, said: “A lot of fresh goods are sourced from Africa, and are flown in because of their short shelf life, and you’re going to immediately have problems with that not being able to get through,” he said.

“The longer that UK airspace is closed for business, the greater the damage. Livelihoods are in serious jeopardy.”?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), has sharply criticised European governments for their handling of the crisis.

“We are far enough into this crisis to express our dissatisfaction on how governments have managed it – with no risk assessment, no consultation, no coordination, and no leadership,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and chief executive officer.

“This crisis is costing airlines at least US$200 million a day in lost revenues and the European economy is suffering billions of dollars in lost business. In the face of such dire economic consequences, it is incredible that Europe’s transport ministers have taken five days to organise a teleconference.

“Governments must place greater urgency and focus on how and when we can safely re-open Europe’s skies. This means decisions based on risk-management, facts and utilising operational procedures that maintain safety,” he added.

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