India’s civil aviation ministry may allow cargo carriers like Blue Dart and UPS to do their own ground handling at airports. Th is is a result of a recent representation by Blue Dart, the country’s largest operating cargo carrier, against a new ground handling policy which will come into effect in airports from 1 January, 2009.
The representation criticised the proposed policy, saying it ignores the needs of express cargo services which require special handling and would only be increasing their costs and decrease effi ciency of the operations.
The new ground handling policy dictates that the same set of agents would handle passenger baggage and cargo that is carried in the bellyhold of passenger aircraft, along with express cargo. Firms such as Blue Dart have protested that the policy ignores the needs of express cargo services. Blue Dart argued that express cargo carriers should be allowed to do their own handling at the airports rather than being forced to outsource to others, like in the US and Europe.
“We have engaged consultancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to look at the air cargo policy, which will be finalised in some time. Issues being looked at include allowing cargo carriers to do their own ground handling at airports.We understand that ground handling agents may not be skilled enough tohandle express cargo which is operatedby freighter airlines,” said a senior civilaviation ministry official.
“The proposed ground handling policy would significantly impact the quality of air express airline operations and render the business untenable. We would recommend a review of the policy to exclude air express airline operations because of the special needs of the segment that are completely different from the passenger segment and because of the significant role air express cargo plays in trade facilitation within the country and across borders. We are making our representation to the ministry,” said Tulsi Mirchandaney, managing director, Blue Dart.
Express cargo carrier executives said that handling express cargo requires a special kind of training and time-bound efficiency to implement the services.
“For instance, express cargo includes specifications like putting priority cargo above non-priority cargo. Also, the shipments need to be sorted destination wise, colour coded, bagged and subject to various scans at various airports. This requires a dedicated workforce trained by the company to carry out the jobs,” said a cargo carrier executive.