Emirates is looking to add a fourth weekly freighter service out of Australia as the carrier builds its cargo capabilities at the new Dubai World Central (DWC) airport.
Currently, Emirates SkyCargo operates three dedicated freighter services a week to Sydney with 777F aircraft which make a stop in Singapore in both directions.
Emirates divisional senior vice president for cargo Nabil Sultan says world capacity in the cargo market is holding up well and the Australian market is in good shape.
“That gives us a bit more confidence,” Sultan said in an interview from Melbourne on Monday.
“We are considering putting a fourth service into Sydney.
“One of our strengths is our ability to move capacity very quickly around the world to where the demand is. We are very flexible.”
Figures from Emirates show the airline carried 107,500 tonnes of cargo between Australia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013, utilising both its three freighter flights as well as the belly space in the 84 weekly passenger services operated with a mix of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s.
Sultan said fresh produce such as seafood and meat, along with milk products and other foods, were among Australia’s biggest exports to the UAE.
Emirates recently moved all its dedicated freighter services to DWC, which is linked to Dubai International Airport by trucks that run on what is essentially a private road or secure corridor.
Sultan said the new DWC facility has given Emirates SkyCargo more flexibility, including better access to takeoff and landing slots, as well as more room to expand its cargo operations.
There were also state-of-the-art cooling chambers that kept items such as perishable goods and pharmaceutical products at constant temperatures to maintain quality.
DWC currently has capacity for about 700,000 tonnes of cargo a year, with room to expand the facility further in the years ahead.
Emirates has 14 freighter aircraft in its fleet, comprising 12 Boeing 777s and two 747s. It was expected to add one more 777 by August 2015.
While some airlines have begun retiring their freighter aircraft and relying on belly space in passenger aircraft, Sultan said dedicated freighter aircraft would continue to have an important role for Emirates SkyCargo.
He cited the example of Hong Kong, where Emirates SkyCargo had about 21 freighter services a week to one of the world’s key manufacturing zones.
“We couldn’t carry all that cargo just in our passenger services,” Nabil says.
“The freighter aircraft will continue to be a very important part of our cargo operations.”
His view was shared by Boeing Capital Corporation managing director of capital markets development and leasing Kostya Zolotusky, who said the world will continue to need dedicated freighter aircraft.
“Belly cargo is very important, but relative to what is carried by dedicated freighters it is relatively modest,” Zolotusky told reporters during a briefing in Sydney on October 8.
Zolotusky noted there were 70 dedicated freighters operating between the Asia and North America every day, compared with 150 widebody passenger aircraft.
Figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed cargo volumes, measured by freight tonne kilometres, grew 5.2 per cent in September, compared with the prior corresponding period. Capacity grew by 3.8 per cent in the month.
IATA chief executive Tony Tyler said it was a mixed performance in the cargo market in September, with demand in the Asia-Pacific growing but weak in Europe due to the ongoing conflict and sanctions as part of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
“Overall, improvements in global business confidence have stagnated – which could mean a bumpy road ahead for air cargo,” Tyler said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Emirates SkyCargo and the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA), have launched a new academic achievement award.
The winner will receive $5,000 for education and training in the cargo or freight forwarding industry and be taken to Dubai for a tour of Emirates’ new cargo handing terminal and facility.
“Like Emirates, we understand the importance of nurturing and supporting the up-and-coming members within the industry,” CBFCA executive director Stephen Morris said in a statement.
“I personally am very much looking forward to discovering some of the industry’s brightest talents.”
Applications for people currently working in the cargo or freight forwarding sector with a registered member of the CBFCA will be open shortly, Emirates SkyCargo and the CBFCA said in a joint statement.