05-06/2013 Let's go, the red and whites
«Congratulations!» and «What a good idea!» – this and more praise of that ilk for the Swiss model of a pan-industry air cargo interest group came from Des Vertannes, the global head of cargo at the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (Iata), at the 20th airfreight seminar of the Swiss Shippers’ Council. We presented Switzerland’s IG Air Cargo to our readers not long after its launch last year (see ITJ 39-40/2012, page 30). The group has now commissioned a feasibility study for the creation of a joint e-platform, and the authorities have decided to support the initiative. Vertannes believes that such collaboration between all of the country’s airfreight logistics chain players is wonderful. It simultaneously conforms to a three-level approach for paperfree airfreight transportation that is being pursued by the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (Gacag), which was formed by Iata, Tiaca, Fiata and the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF).
The project’s overarching aim is to modernise the Swiss airfreight industry and ensure its ability to compete. Measures to cut costs in the sector are urgently required, as airfreight has generally been hit harder than other modes of transport over the past few years. Switzerland is no island, and seems to be showing the first symptoms of weakness – after years of success. The amount of goods exported by air in the eleven months to November 2012 declined by 12.4% vis-à-vis the like-for-like period last year to 182,789 t, a drop that was almost as pronounced as the one registered in 2009 (–14.9% to 167,563 t), which was labelled a terrible year by Iata. Vertannes believes that the hopes for sustainable improvements expressed a year ago have been bitterly disappointed, and this perception is borne out by the fact that imports have also declined for the second successive year, namely by –6.6% to 68,289 t, following on from –1% in 2011.
The strong Swiss franc is surely also to blame, even though the nation is justifiably proud of it, with some neighbours rather envious of the currency. There have been some positive signals in this field recently, as the franc fell to the lowest level of the last few months vis-à-vis the euro just beforeour editorial deadline. Or putting it differently – there have never been so many francs on offer for a euro since the end of May 2011.
Switzerland’s eastern neighbour Austria, whose economy makes it a euro bastion, would appear to have left the worst behind it, as the ITJ’s editor-in-chief Christian Doepgen writes in his introduction to our Austria Special, which starts on page 21. Looking at the performance of each mode of transport, however, it is striking to note that airfreight is on the decline in Austria too. In this prickly situation the airport managers have opted for an anti-cyclical strategy, and are investing in the predicted upswing. Let’s hope that it comes soon!