in Air Transport / Features

Loads of potential...

Posted 22 August 2017 · Add Comment

Things are improving fast in Nigeria's airfreight market but, as Chukwu Emeke reports, there is still a long way to go.

A significant increase in cargo traffic at Nigeria’s airports became noticeable towards the end of last year.
Cargo movements grew steadily each month from just over 13.5 million in September to nearly16.3 million by December.
The total for the year was about 61.4 million, according to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) general manager, corporate affairs, Yakubu Dati.
He said: “Some strategic airports in Nigeria, such as Akure, Makurdi, Minna, Abuja, Owerri, Calabar, Ilorin, Jalingo, Jos, Uyo, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt have been designated fresh and dry cargo airports, for the direct exportation of fresh agricultural produce from surrounding local communities to markets in Europe, the US and across the world.”
Currently, Allied Air, Max Air and Afrijet Airlines are among the few indigenous operators dedicated to cargo flights.
Because most Nigeria’s consumables are imported, many trips made by the country’s business community are also now being used to accommodate huge freight volumes – a prospect that has attracted non-Nigerian carriers.
The cargo segments of airlines like Emirates, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian and many others are beneficiaries of Nigeria’s air cargo market, which has a liberalised ground-handling sub-sector of four licensed operators.
Courier companies like FedEx and DHL also have a significant market share. DHL Aviation for instance, is the cargo airline with the highest frequency into Nigeria and operates about 44 weekly combined flights in and out of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
Saudi Arabian flag-carrier, Saudia, has about the highest volume of cargo into Nigeria, bringing in an average of about 2.5 million kilos of cargo on a monthly basis.
Professionalism in the airfreight business has continued to improve along with training quality, following the emergence of several cargo-handling training institutions to complement the efforts of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria.
However, operators say the authorities need to address existing growth constraints.
Kingsley Nwokoma, general manager of Cargolux and president of the Association of Foreign Airlines Representatives In Nigeria (AFARN) wants the authorities to address the challenges of long turn-around time, unfavourable government policies on cargo and the existence of so many agencies that collect charges and fees. This situation, he argues, turns off investors.
In most Nigerian airports there is insufficient warehouse infrastructure and obsolete cargo-handling facilities, which cause inefficiency in processes and lower quality in cargo operations. This poses a serious threat to security; giving room for pilfering, obsolete screening methods and loss of revenue.
Observers believe that improved security will bring more confidence into the system and reduce such losses. Adequate parking and lighting facilities are also needed for freighter aircraft at the airports.
Because of the high cost of acquisition and maintenance of ground-handling equipment, granting of waivers on importation of the equipment has become a necessity to minimise costs for handling operators and reduce their service charges, while possibly attracting more investors. The improvement of customs efficiency and airfreight economics will also help the sector thrive.
The government also needs to address urgently the challenges posed by the recent currency crisis – in June it was reported that foreign airlines were halting flights to Nigeria, where a foreign exchange crisis has led the government to limit access to dollars.
Oluropo Owolabi, former managing director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL), summed up: “For Nigeria to tap into existing opportunities, it will require the proper policies to be in place. It also requires the right strategies in implementation. Having the key players to fully drive the change is important because, that way, it is sustainable.
“Oftentimes, it is about being dynamic in policy implementation in ways that will maximise results. All the key players must be considered in any reforms for there to be effective results. Policies must be properly evaluated and implementation must be dynamic. Performance of the overall economy is important in achieving a positive air cargo business sector.”

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