Monday, August 24, 2020

Whilst Virus Has Decimated Aviation Some Freight and Logistics Firms Make the Best of It

Niche Market Continues to Tick Over
Shipping News Feature

HONG KONG – WORLDWIDE – As we have said before, although the virus has had a debilitating effect on virtually every type of business, there are parts of the transport and logistics sectors which have actually witnessed an increase in turnover, and it seems one area which is holding up for some is the airline repair business.

This is of course counterintuitive knowing how many billions of dollars of revenue is still being lost to the aircraft operating companies, but that is not the whole story. Even when sitting idle aircraft need attention, and the lengthy downtime has encouraged some to undertake even more rigorous checks and repairs than usual with many companies using this time to update their avionics and do regular maintenance

One company, Hong Kong-based freight forwarder and logistics operator, U-Freight, says that, while the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a significant reduction in movements of aircraft spares, engines, stabilisers, landing gear, and electronics, its own project activity for airline repair companies has been holding up somewhat.

Bill Rauld, sales manager for Latin America at U-Freight North America, says that aircraft still flying will continue to go technical in remote parts of the world, or they may even be involved in relatively minor accidents such as a runway overshoot or heavy landing. This sort of activity means sending out portable hangars, which means despatching perhaps, three sea freight containers, plus all the tools and so forth, in order to carry out the necessary repairs.

Rauld says that what is really needed, is for the travel restrictions and bans that governments have imposed around the world as a result of the crisis caused by Covid-19 to be lifted and for the world’s airlines to start flying again, but is under no illusions that this will be a quick or easy process. For a start, many aircraft will need to be recertified before they can take to the air again.

This of course could generate a certain amount of spares movement for companies like U-Freight. Aerospace demand is unpredictable at the best of times, with widely varying SKUs (stock-keeping units). Most shipments require ‘white glove’ service as they are usually urgent, with many smaller parts transported directly by courier service.

There are many trade lanes in the aerospace logistics arena, but the most common for U-Freight are South-East Asia and Europe and a couple of companies keep U-Freight reasonably busy in this sub-sector of the market, recently in places including Mozambique, Turkey and Surinam. A bonus for the forwarder is that usually most of the tools and materials will then need to be returned to base. Rauld commented:

”The future for the aerospace market generally is uncertain at best, there are still opportunities, but they are becoming rarer and more competitive. With limited cargo space, there may be opportunities for more hand carries for AOGs (aircraft-on ground shipments).

“U-Freight has constantly tried to enhance its logistics services in order to expand its presence in the global market for aviation and aerospace supply chain management. At some of our freight hubs, we have worked with the local customs authorities and inbound carriers, to develop a system that enables us to clear and deliver shipments within three hours of arrival.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lufthansa Technik which operates four Mobile Engine Service stations in Frankfurt (Germany), Montreal (Canada), Tulsa (USA) and Shenzhen (China) and that, despite the pandemic, are fully operational.