«Rapidly achieve critical mass»
Royal Air Maroc Cargo is the Moroccan airfreight market leader. Freight director Amine El Farissi outlines how RAM Cargo – the abbreviated name of the fully-owned subsidiary of the state-owned national carrier, which operates a fleet of 53 aircraft – plans to continue to grow in the near future. The starting point of all its strategic deliberations is its hub at Casablanca airport.
The kingdom of Morocco is attempting to make the best of its favourable geographic location by investing heavily in its logistics infrastructure, relying on the support of major stakeholders in this endeavour. In the aviation segment the principal player is Royal Air Maroc, which has been operating to and from Africa and Europe since 1957. In response to growing regional demand for air cargo services the airline’s immediate objectives include the development of its goods transport activities. A programme to revitalise these activities was launched in 2014.
It includes restructuring the division Royal Air Maroc Cargo, in order to give it greater independence; developing a GSA network, in order to market capacity at an international level; and introducing full-freighter services that will initially connect Brussels with a number of African cities via Morocco.
Planes, people, places
With a workforce of more than 200 people handling the day-to-day import, export and transit processing of goods, Royal Air Maroc is considered the country’s leading airfreight operator. Shipments are mainly transported in the hold of long-haul aircraft, which can also accommodate pallets and bulky consignments. The aeroplanes include one Boeing B747, four B767s and two B787s (which will be joined by two more by the end of the year), which carry up to 15 t of cargo to African destinations such as Algiers, Luanda and Nairobi, as well as others further afield, such as New York, São Paulo and Montreal. A B737 full-freighter also operates scheduled services to Algiers, Bamako, Conakry, Monrovia, Nouakchott and Ouagadougou, whilst the carrier’s smaller passenger aircraft, such as 36 B737s, five ATR72s and four E190s, are suitable for transporting general cargo.
Casablanca – a natural hub
Belly-hold activities will be the focus of RAM Cargo’s expansion. Either the frequency of existing flights will be increased, or new services will be introduced. As examples El Farissi cited Casablanca–Doha and Casablanca–Nairobi, which are set to open up the Asian and East African markets, in partnership with regional airlines. In total, the carrier’s network includes more than 90 destinations, including 34 in Europe, 32 in Africa, four each in America and the Middle East, and 18 domestic destinations in Morocco.
RAM Cargo has its own terminal at Mohammed V international airport in Casablanca, the hub in the country’s largest city. It serves as a passenger as well as a logistics hub. The 20,000 sqm facility houses a sales office that is open seven days a week. In 2015, the gateway handled 50,000 t of freight. The terminal’s annual capacity is 250,000 t. It is also equipped to handle special products, such as perishables (including fish), mint and fruit, live animals and pharmaceutical products, as well as hazardous goods, vehicles and valuables.
RAM Cargo does not restrict itself to the domestic market, but regards international business as the key to its success. According to word from Casablanca it is now considered the most important African operator on routes to and from Europe.
From its hub RAM Cargo also teams up with partners, such as SNTL, to complement its options with road feeder services. Goods that arrive in Casablanca from Europe by road (or sea) are forwarded to Africa or Brazil by air, for example.
Costs are very low. They are additionally covered by an end-to-end air waybill for insurance purposes, which would not be possible without the cooperation of the Moroccan customs authorities. Internationally, RAM Cargo collaborates with GSAs as well as other airlines, particularly in regions that are not (yet) served by its own aircraft.
With an evolving full-freighter fleet – one of its three B767 passenger aircraft is due to be replaced by a B767 freighter before the end of 2016 – and the consolidation of its network in West Africa and other regions (depending on demand), RAM Cargo is aiming to become increasingly involved in international trade.
«We need to rapidly achieve critical mass,» said its freight director, Amine El Farissi, who is convinced of the potential of the African airfreight market. However, there is currently still an imbalance there. Whilst flights from north to south are usually full, the return flights are frequently half empty and operate at very low margins.
Cooperating with partners
The development of services with high added value will rectify this. Future solutions include a door-to-door service, which is due to be developed in conjunction with partners such as Barid Al Maghrib, SDTM and SNTL. «We want to appeal to a B2C clientele,» explained El Farissi, who is also closely involved in the implementation of e-freight in the country, together with customs officials.
In addition to its freight services RAM Cargo has another mainstay – handling activities for overseas airlines. «We support almost all carriers, with Emirates (which operates ten flights a week from Dubai), Etihad, Qatar Airways, Air France as well as Air Algérie our biggest clients,» said El Farissi, concluding his description of RAM Cargo’s varied activities.