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AfricaReport Astra: strong start to the year

Phil Eyre, director of UK-based Astra Aviation – which provides aviation services to airlines and aircraft operators in Africa – says the company is seeing an increase in business. “We’ve had a very good start

to the year, especially January and February. April finished strongly and May has started nicely,” he summed up. In particular, a new customer

in Kigali has been “very good to work with”. However, business in Mauritius, Madagascar and Zambia has been rather quiet so far this year. Astra is currently opening in Conakry (where

things are off to an encouraging start) and Mozambique in order to support the growing number of oil, gas and mining movements as well as relief agency charters in those locations.

Eyre observed several issues that make air

freight difficult in Africa: a lack of connectivity between hubs and cities with the right size air- craft; a lack of transparency over fees; and a lack of adequate ground infrastructure. “Poor com- munication with airport stakeholders is another problem we are trying to overcome”, he added.

Freight In Time looks forward to ‘new horizons’

Nairobi-headquartered for- warder Freight In Time (FIT) has experienced “stunted” growth so far this year, as high inflation and interest rates have made for a difficult busi- ness environment. Other challenges have

come in the form of reduced demand for Kenyan exports (mainly fresh produce and flowers) from recession-hit European countries, says group business development manager Samuel Gichohi. At the same time, competition for handling imports is driv- ing down margins. He also noted the war between Sudan and

the region which will open corridors for trade,” he added. Among these projects are a road link, a new sea port, a rail link and an oil pipeline, all

in the

Kenya/Ethiopia/Sudan area. “We as freight forwarders are excited by this as it opens up new horizons for us,” Gichohi commented. He believes FIT is posi-

Gichohi: “there is still optimism in Africa”

South Sudan, which could affect FIT’s business in the newly created country, the forwarder having set up an office there late last year. Nonetheless, he said: “There is still opti-

mism in Africa, especially with the discovery of oil and gas in Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan... All this will lead to opportunities for us as there will be a need to move equipment. “Also, infrastructure is being developed in

tioned in the right place at the right time to take advantage of these developments. The company has ventured into spare parts logistics in Kenya; this is picking up well, and

may be rolled out in the other countries where FIT is active. The forwarder is also looking to expand

into Congo, Zambia and Malawi. Gichohi con- cluded: “Our vision is to cover Africa... Our strategy is to differentiate our product from other forwarders. We want to offer an end-to- end solution, a one-stop shop, so that customers just need to come to one provider for all their needs.”

Freighter operator keeps busy on several fronts

Astral Aviation, the all-cargo air- line headquartered in Nairobi, experienced a high level of activ- ity on its services into South Sudan in the first quarter of this year. The carrier has seen an aver-

age cargo load factor of 95 percent on its three times a week DC-9F and B727F Nairobi - Juba services, while relief cargo bound for Malakal airport led to a record number of charters. But Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO at

Astral, noted that the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan “could lead to potential security prob- lems and an increase in operating costs due to war-risk insurance and higher fuel costs”. Elsewhere, Astral has flown aid charters to ease the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and

Gadhia notes concerns

launched weekly flights to Mogadishu in March. That same month, it

acquired a B727-200 freighter from SKA Group, operated under a joint venture for ad hoc charters and project flights within Africa. This year, Astral plans to set

up a West African hub and spoke network with a DC-9F previously used by Africa West. This will start as a three-month oil and gas charter operation, expanding to scheduled services covering “at least six destina- tions” later on.

The company is also considering the

appointment of new cargo general sales agents for Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Jor- dan – which will be online during the second quarter of this year.


BY AUTUMN this year, civil aviation and defence training provider CAE will set up an A330 simula- tor for pilot and maintenance technician instruction at the South African Airways training centre in Johannesburg.

ON 16 MAY, Air Nigeria will add three times a day A330-200 flights from Lagos to the South of Eng- land’s Gatwick airport, the frequency rising to daily by 16 June. In a second network expansion,

the carrier will also add three times a week A330- 200 services between Lagos and Johannesburg on 17 May.

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES has taken delivery of its second B737-800 aircraft. The carrier placed an order for 10 of the aircraft type in December 2009. Later this year, Ethiopian expects to become the first African airline to operate the B787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft.

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7 May 2012

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