Air Freight News :
First flight for Tunisia's Express Air Cargo.
· New Tunisian freighter operator Express Air Cargo has completed its first commercial flight, operating a Boeing 737-300F between Tunis and Paris Charles de Gaulle on February 25.
The airline took delivery of the aircraft in mid-January after it went through a series of inspections and said it would be taking delivery of a second aircraft in the coming weeks.
The company eventually aims to offer daily connections between 15 countries in north and west Africa and Europe. Its eventual fleet will consist of B737-300Fs, B737-400Fs, ATR-72s and Cessna-208B.
As well as the express sector, it will also target pharma, perishables, live animals, dangerous goods and charter markets. It hoped to include integrators including UPS, DHL, TNT, FedEx, Aramex amongst its customers.
The airline was originally due to launch in January 2016 and then again in September. FL Technics is acting as the airline’s maintenance, repair and overhaul service provider.
When news of the airline first emerged in late 2015, UPS were rumoured to be investors, but in the end the deal did not go through.
ABX Air pilots agree settlement.
ABX Air has reached a settlement with its pilot unions on a dispute which had grounded 75 flights for DHL and Amazon over two days late last year.
The ABX Air agreement by the Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) subsidiary allows pilots to take compensatory days off after working on their days off to cover flights due to alleged staffing shortages at the US-based freighter lessor.
A statement by the unions, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Airline Division and the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, said: “This resolution puts an end to the issue that prompted the pilots to walk off the job: pilots were regularly forced to work overtime and called out on emergency assignments on their days off, creating strain and keeping pilots away from their families.
“The pilots were not permitted to take the compensatory days off provided for in their contract. Still, pilots are concerned that the airline will not have enough pilots given the growing pilot shortage.”
ABX Air has yet to comment publicly on deal, which in early December 2016 saw a US district court judge support an ATSG application to extend a temporary restraining order stopping ABX Air pilots from going on strike into one banning work stoppages and other service interruptions.
The unions said that the agreement “eliminates a large backlog of accrued, earned days off – which had aggravated the staffing shortages – and restores the pilots’ right to use any new days they earn starting in March”.
A labour arbitrator will decide whether ABX Air can put any new restrictions on that right
China Airlines signs with WFS in Chicago.
China Airlines has signed a new cargo contract at Chicago O’Hare International Airport with Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), extending its 19-year old relationship with the handler in North America.
WFS now handles for the Chinese carrier at five US locations. WFS won its first contract with China Airlines in North America in 1998 at New York JFK, where it continues to handle 47,000 tonnes a year for the airline. It also handles cargo for the carrier in Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston and manages its passenger and ramp operations in Honolulu.
Under the latest agreement, WFS will handle up to seven direct flights a week between Chicago and Taipei, with the estimated 56,000 tonnes of cargo per year, contributing to an overall total of over 130,000 tonnes of cargo in North America.
WFS senior vice president, sales and business development for WFS in North America, Ray Jetha, said that China Airlines is one of the handler’s biggest customers in the US. “Over nearly two decades of working together we have gained a strong understanding of the airline’s service requirements.
"We have demonstrated our ability to deliver the quality and reliability expected and sincerely appreciate the airline’s continued confidence in WFS.”
WFS strengthened its presence in North America a year ago with the acquisition of Consolidated Aviation Services, and now operates 54 stations there with 8,000 employees serving 63 airlines
Sea Cargo News :
Maersk Line today stopped booking export containers from Europe to Asia and the Middle East, according to market sources, while capacity is said to be extremely tight for other lines.
Air freight could feel the benefit, if the capacity crunch continues, according to one forwarder.
Maersk’s block on bookings runs until 27 March, but the situation will be reviewed on the 13th.
The only cargo exemption is when a prior space commitment has been given, according to a memo seen by The Loadstar.
A spokesman for Maersk said: “We can confirm that exceptionally high demand on North Europe to Asia trade has led to challenges with space availability and, consequently, to potential issues with the acceptance of bookings to our customers.
“We are currently reviewing all possible options to minimise this issue and thus reduce the impact to our customers’ business. We will stay in close touch with them to propose best options for securing the smoothest possible flows of their cargo.”
One Dubai logistics expert told The Loadstar the capacity problem was not restricted to Maersk.
“All carriers are congested beyond belief. It’s just like 2013, when there were no bookings for three months. I imagine a lot of carriers are repositioning vessels for the alliances. They are not running to their schedules.”
Ocean carriers blanked an estimated one-third of all westbound voyages in the first week of the Chinese new year holiday at the end of January, and this increased to almost 50% of sailings for the second week.
As a consequence, the respective eastbound voyages were also blanked – thought to be the main reason for the backhaul capacity crunch.
However, it appears likely that the tight booking situation on 2M alliance vessels has worsened with the perception that Maersk and MSC’s competitors will face some disruption from the reshuffle for the new alliances on 1 April.
Indeed, with just a few weeks remaining until the launch of THE Alliance, its UK hub port(s) has still not been officially announced. UK export customers of Hapag-Lloyd, Yang Ming and the Japanese trio of K Line, MOL and NYK are thought to be struggling to organise supply chains.
A beneficiary of the situation, should the block on containership bookings continue, would be air freight.
“They will have to switch to air freight, if the alternative is factory closures,” said one European forwarder.
“It has got to have an impact. They will need to air freight a certain amount. It will matter to European importers, less so to exporters.”
While one airline confirmed it had heard about the situation and was booked up for three months, charter broker Chapman Freeborn said it had seen no evidence of any additional demand and that forwarders had not reported problems with sea freight.
One European air freight forwarder said: “My understanding is that the main issues have been experienced by waste exporters. They typically demand low freight rates, although they have volume, but are usually first to be hit when things are tight and higher margin business is available. They would never consider air freighting this as there is such little value in the ‘product.”
Although Maersk has been the subject of export shipper concerns, it is understood that its 2M partner, MSC, has also introduced some “booking restrictions”. And another Felixstowe-based carrier told The Loadstar today “export space is tight at the moment”.
Meanwhile, as previously reported by The Loadstar, Asia-Europe eastbound rates have soared in the past month – Maersk Line’s FAK (freight all kinds) backhaul rates for March are higher than their headhaul equivalent.
Furthermore, freight rates for high-volume export commodities, such as wastepaper and cardboard for recycling in China, have been hiked even higher, with Maersk charging $2,125 per 40ft from Felixstowe, compared with $1,600 for other commodities.