Thursday, December 20, 2012

Transforming Air Cargo Business Through Enhanced Airports’ Operations

In an attempt to boost cargo business and export in Nigeria, Stella Oduah, Aviation minister, said recently that along with remodelling and building of airport terminals, the ministry would secure N106 billion from the Chinese bank to build about 11 Cargo/Perishable materials terminals, with six of them to be sited at airports in the North.

Her plans, according to Yakubu Datti, general manager, public affairs of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), is to make Nigeria a leading exporter of agricultural produce, through the nation’s airports, in line with government’s transformation agenda for the aviation industry.

He said the authority has commenced the repositioning of cargo business in line with its statutory function of engaging in economic activities that impact positively on the growth of air transport in Nigeria as part of the ongoing restructuring of the aviation sector.

According to him, “the present cargo traffic figure for year 2011 at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport stands at about 171.6million metric tons per annum, whereas Manchester Cargo Airport in the UK handles about same number at around 170million metric tons cargo annually. The airport is already targeting about 250million metric tons by year 2015 according to information from the MCA websites. The present strategy by FAAN will give room for the expansion of cargo traffic figure to about double by 2015.

“By the time this project is realised, FAAN would have become a major player in the cargo business comparable to international airports as Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Frankfurt Airport in Germany and London’s Heathrow Airport”, he said.

Datti noted that among the strategies adopted in fulfilling this objective is the elevation of the sector to a full scale directorate.

According to him, “by this development, the new directorate will spearhead the development of the cargo business which has been under-explored over the years, even though the potentials are enormous.”

The new cargo directorate will be responsible for generating a blueprint for turning the cargo business to a profitable venture as it is done globally. The directorate will also be responsible for implementing changes and monitoring the application of relevant resources to achieve result.

He said the new initiative will involve the building of massive terminals which will have several perishable cargo warehouses and other cargo infrastructure; will help to boost the economy of the country in terms of speedy turn around and safe delivery of goods and services.

Although, the volume of Cargo export is still very low compared to import level as the country  is yet to fully develop that aspect of business, however, FAAN, says it targets over 343.2 million metric tons of cargo traffic through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport by 2015 as it begins to develop the business for positive impact on air transportation.

Rowland Ofulue, director, Cargo Development, FAAN, at an interactive session with the representatives of international cargo airlines and members of the Association of Foreign  Airlines’ Representatives recently said  the creation of a new directorate of cargo development in FAAN was among several strategies adopted by the Federal Government to steer the nation from being an oil and gas dependent economy to a multi-pronged economy that will create more jobs for Nigerians.

He said that the new directorate was poised to create an enabling environment that will boost cargo development at major Nigerian airports, where more emphasis had been laid on passenger movements and other related businesses.

Ofulue informed the group that the Federal Government had concluded plans to build new cargo terminals in twelve airports across the country and invited them to take advantage of this huge investment to contribute to the growth of the country’s economy, through increased air cargo operation.

He also said that an agro-allied economy can evolve from the development of the cargo terminals being planned nationwide, adding that a lot of perishable food items that are produced in this country could be exported through the airports as it is done in neighbouring countries that rely solely on such exports for the sustenance of their economies.

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