Chinese Customs regulations have prevented container management company Jettainer adding Jade Cargo International to its client list, leaving it to look in other markets for its first Asian customer. “The problem is that China has very specific rules about ULD importing,” says Jettainer’s director of business development, Peter Ahnert.“The World Customs Organisationrecommendation is that they shouldbe treated as airline parts and exemptfrom Customs duties. However, theChinese take a different approach.”
Ahnert says Jettainer is looking for ways to resolve the problem, recognising that China is a very important potential market for its service, but he admits, “It is not a top priority, and we have lots of opportunities elsewhere.” Meantime, Jettainer has had to limit its role to advising Jade on its ULDpurchases.
Jettainer was set up in 2004 in a joint venture between Lufthansa Cargo and TrenStar ULD Management. While its aim is ultimately to offer a global ULD pool, as an initial stage it is concentrating on purchasing the ULD stock of its customers and optimising its management on a carrier by carrier basis. It has unsurprisingly proved popular with Lufthansa and its related carriers, being adopted by US Airways (which at time was outsourcing its sales management to Lufthansa Cargo) in November 2005, and Swiss WorldCargo last July. Ahnert says US Airways remains a customer still, despite its merger with America West which led to the sales relationship with Lufthansa being terminated. Other customers include Air Astana, the flag carrier of Kazahkstan, and UK leisure carrier XL, which chose Jettainer last December. Both signed five yearcontracts.
Ahnert insists other major customers are in the pipeline, but admits that it is taking longer than expected to sign them up. “ULD management is a relatively minor priority for many carriers when compared to other issues, and so there is a limit to the management time it gets,” he says. “But that is not a sign that carriers are not interested: just that they have other concerns that are more pressing.” One example is a major US carrier that Jettainer said it was close to announcing last year. “We are still working with them, but it is taking longer. We now expect to start working with them in early 2008, ratherthan 2007,” Ahnert says.
Asian carriers are also proving tougher nuts to crack. Ahnert admits that many already have tighter control over their ULDs than European and US airlines, along with lower cost bases that make it easier for them to employ staff to manage their container fleets.“Despite this, we are talking to severalAsian airlines, and we are confident wewill see an Asian customer eventually,”he says. He insists that having LufthansaCargo as a major shareholder is nota barrier to Jettainer’s acceptance byother carriers. “In fact, it is an advantage,because we have the huge ULDfleet and transportation capacity ofLufthansa behind us,” he says.
While gaining the critical mass to operate a true pool is a way off – and needs at least one Asian carrier to become a customer – Ahnert says Jettainer is still able to achieve some synergies for its carriers. One example is on high frequency routes used by two or more customers, where the company can lend the ULD stock of one carrier for another to avoid oversupply or bottlenecks. “We also have only one IT system and only one head office team, so that already provides our customers with certain costsavings,” he says.
On the technology front, Jettainer has rolled out a ULD scanning system at Frankfurt, which uses hand held mobile data units and barcode labels to track containers, and speed damaged ones to the appropriate repair station. Ahnert says this will be rolled out to other locations. He does not see a role for RFID tagging in the forseeable future, however, except for use on high value containers or shipments. “The problem is we would need to have a worldwide reader infrastructure, and that would just be too expensive,” he says. -Peter Conway