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Tug-of-war as cloud lifts from airfreight

A tussle is developing between freight forwarders and airlines over airfreight rates in the wake of the shut-down of European aviation after the Icelandic volcanic eruption. U-Freight UK managing director, Greg Easterbook said that airlines from the Far East were trying to charge forwarders up to three times the pre-volcano rate for shipments from the Far East to Europe. Some airlines, he said, were using the acute capacity shortage as “an excuse to rape and pillage” and he was urging his own customers to hang back and wait for rates to fall again. “Having empty shelves in the shops may not be great, but will the ultimate consumer be willing to pay for these sorts of rates, which would have to be passed on?” Large parts of the UK’s international freight industry shuddered to a half over the weekend of 17/18 April as air services across Europe were progressively shut down by the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland. Heathrow cargo terminal and its approach roads were eerily quiet as freight forwarders and airlines stopped accepting export cargo for air shipment. In overseas locations, cargo, including perishables, piled up in warehouses and transit sheds. Greg Easterbook warned that the shut- down might hit the UK economy harder

in the long term than some Continental countries, who were closer to still- operational airports and do not face the added cost and complication of getting goods across the Channel: “This could be a

the system were now being delivered. “My gut feeling is that the status quo should be largely restored by late April – provided of course that the volcano doesn’t erupt again, and we pray that that doesn’t happen.” Woodland International airfreight

manager Keith Smaggasgale told FBJ: “It’s certainly been a very difficult situation.” He added that it was the sheer uncertainty which was making life hard. “We could set up contingency plans, only to find that the airways all open up again.” Most UK-based airlines stopped

The cloud turned Heathrow into a ghost town

real kick in the teeth for the UK, just as it was emerging from recession.” The problem could hurt many sectors of the UK freight industry as much as the recession, he said. He pointed out, also, that many retailers had run down stocks in the recession, relying on rapid and reliable airfreight services to keep them topped up. Smaller companies in particular could be hit particularly hard. Mr Easterbook added that that the

immediate freight backlog was being lifted and shipments that had been snarled up in

accepting cargo at Heathrow and Keith Smaggasgale said that many shippers had been holding back their freight. At AMI, general manager for global marketing Nigel Moolennaar said: “We are a lot luckier than some as we were able to move cargo by road, using our urgent light van service.” He added: “When cargo does start

moving, I would hope that forwarders with permanent bookings would have their cargo moved first. Also, it will be interesting to see if the airlines start trying to impose rip-off prices over the next few weeks.” Mr Moolennaar was also critical of the

European response to the crisis. “We’ve seen little co-ordinated response to get around it, especially for freight. If a crisis like this goes on for longer than a couple days there should be an effective plan.”

In this issue...

Technology Shippers’ Voice Ireland Malta


“UK ports uncompetitive”

Iranians box clever

Recession turns world trade upside down

Police powers cut truck toll


Crossword Freight Break

36 36

3 6

10 11

26 14 15 28

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