Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Air Freight Crimes Bear Uncanny Similarities - But it's All Rosy at Schiphol

From Ram Raids to Florists Shops It's Not Just Pirates That Scavenge for Treasure
Shipping News Feature

BELGIUM – FRANCE – NETHERLANDS – UK – The latest audacious raid by thieves on a Swiss bound aircraft whilst it sat on the tarmac at Brussels airport yesterday has an uncanny similarity to the bungled French robbery we reported on last August. In the latest case the eight strong armed gang crashed vans through the perimeter fence as £32 million worth of diamonds were being loaded as freight into the hold of a scheduled passenger flight. The would be thieves last year attempted to seize their booty as a plane was unloading, but not the expected cargo of currency they had anticipated.

Yesterday’s robbery occurred last night after the gang apparently cut away part of the fencing then drove their vehicles up to the side of the Helvetic Airways operated aircraft to menace attending staff with firearms and load the diamonds into their vehicles, one of which was discovered later completely burnt out. The incident again illustrates that airport security is often illusory and vulnerable to the crudest of all tactics despite deploying the most sophisticated technology when it comes to examining cargo.

Aircraft remain however the best way to ship goods from a security standpoint, the physical checks on consignments are without doubt more stringent than with other modal methods, nobody has yet managed to rob an aircraft actually in the air as yet, but crime within the freight industry does not of course stop with robbery. In a week when Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport found itself right at the heart of this year's Valentine's Day rush, as growers in Africa hurried to get their roses into the shops in time for February 14th, we are reminded of what happened at that time last year.

In another case which bore some uncanny similarities, this time to the BBC drama ‘The Shadow Line’, Yorkshire based road haulage operator and florist Gary Pattison was caught with 84 kilos of cocaine, said to have a street value of £23.5 million, hidden amongst his cargo of boxes and bouquets as he travelled back from the world’s largest flower market in Aalsmeer just before St. Valentines day. The case revealed that the market had seen several similar cases in the past and Mr Pattison, who apparently drove his haulage vehicles only when flowers were the cargo, was rewarded with an 18 year jail term.

This year however the big winner were those in the logistics supply chain with Schiphol’s usual 26 weekly freighter flights from Nairobi, Kenya unable to cope with the huge influx of extra flower traffic meaning 800 tonnes of additional inbound freighter capacity added, an increase of 30%. Airfreight and perishables truckers added 50% more vehicle movements in order to transfer the inbound blooms to destinations throughout Europe and this time everything was literally rosy at Amsterdam's Aalsmeer, flower auction house, FloraHolland, as sales increased two and half times in the week up to St Valentine’s Day, reaching an estimated 100 million stems. Schiphol Cargo Business Development Director Bart Pouwels, said:

"Schiphol remains at the centre of cut flower imports into Europe, and its impressive collective resources really come into their own during major annual events like St. Valentine's Day, when speed of cargo processing is critical to product condition. The airport community handled 30 million extra imported rose stems in the past few days. We're glad to have played a part in making so many ladies happy!"