Building a resilient cargo ecosystem

posted on 4th March 2021
Building a resilient cargo ecosystem

Shipment visibility and connectivity has become more important than ever during this unprecedented period, which is best achieved through a community approach, believes Lim Ching Kiat, managing director for air hub development at Changi Airport Group

Amid a reduction in global air cargo capacity and disruptions to global supply chains as a result of Covid-19, Changi Airport has prioritised the restoration of its air cargo sector, with a focus on tackling the challenges with resilience and agility.

Covid-19 has resulted in an unprecedented grounding of passenger flights, causing a reduction in global air cargo capacity. Pre-Covid, the majority of Changi’s air cargo capacity came from the bellyhold space of passenger flights. To close capacity gaps, our immediate response was to work closely with our airline partners to increase capacity on key trade lanes. Our airline partners were quick to respond by either increasing the utilisation of their freighter aircraft or repurposing their passenger aircraft for cargo conveyance, if not both.

During this period, shipment visibility and connectivity has become more important than ever. To boost the resilience and long-term competitiveness of Singapore’s air cargo hub, the Changi Air Cargo Community System (ACCS) was launched in June 2020. This is an open ecosystem of collaborative and community-based applications underpinned by an information-sharing platform that aggregates data from all parties involved in the cargo handling process, to optimise operational efficiencies and enable end-to-end digitisation of the air cargo supply chain.

Efforts are ongoing to raise the preparedness of Changi’s air cargo community in effective vaccine air transportation and handling, as well as to support a vaccination programme among the aviation community.

Vaccine-ready taskforce
Together with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Changi Airport Group (CAG) has established the Changi Ready Taskforce – a joint public-private taskforce comprising government agencies, forwarders, airline partners and cargo handlers, to enhance the preparedness of our air cargo industry in transporting and handling the Covid-19 vaccines.

The Taskforce has since created higher transparency of Changi’s cool chain handling capabilities and capacity. It has also introduced enhanced Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to expedite the processing of vaccine shipments and mitigate exposure to temperature deviations. In parallel, the taskforce has formed a workgroup to identify data gaps and areas where the community can collaboratively improve end-to-end shipment visibility.

Beyond local collaborations, CAG and its ground handling partner SATS, are part of Project Sunrays – a global taskforce formed by TIACA and Pharma.Aero to create greater transparency between the vaccine manufacturers and the global air cargo industry, as well as to establish effective guidelines for the air cargo industry to ensure the proper handling, storage, and transportation of Covid-19 vaccines.

Cargo’s pivotal role
Given Changi Airport’s pivotal role in ensuring that Singapore’s air borders continue to remain open, more than 20,000 frontline aviation workers have been scheduled to receive Covid-19 vaccinations. This is an important step towards reviving the aviation industry.

The Changi Ready Taskforce is set to continue its efforts into 2021. With every vaccine shipment, there will be new learnings and improvements that the air cargo community can review and work on. Together with our partners, CAG will continue to focus on enhancing Changi’s cool chain capabilities to support global vaccination and the restoration of air travel.

The digital transformation of our air cargo sector will also continue to be a key priority in 2021. There are ongoing initiatives to identify and address data gaps, and to forge pharma corridors on key trade lanes to improve end-to-end shipment visibility.

Resilient sectors
Overall, we expect cargo segments such as e-commerce, pharmaceuticals and semiconductors to remain resilient in 2021. The growth trajectory of B2C e-commerce is likely to be accelerated due to the structural change in consumer purchasing behaviour, such as a higher reliance on online shopping. Semiconductor demand will remain strong with the higher consumption of personal computers, smartphones and home equipment as a result of home-based work and learning. In addition, global demand for pharmaceuticals will be boosted with the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutic drugs over the next one to two years.