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OVERVIEW | AIRFREIGHT


CHANGING RELATIONSHIPS


A multitude of developments witnessed over the course of the past decade have forced airlines and charter brokers to become increasingly resourceful in order to meet the requirements of a project logistics sector that has grown ever more complex.


BY YVONNE MULDER AND DAVID KERSHAW O


ver the past ten years, the heavy lift airfreight sector has been dominated by two outsize airlines operating both AN-124 and IL-76 aircraft –


Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Airlines and Ukraine-based Antonov Airlines. In 2006 - just a year before HLPFI launched its first edition - Volga-Dnepr and Antonov created Ruslan International to jointly market their combined AN-124 fleets to customers around the world. Although there have been a handful of other airlines


operating AN-124s for commercial use, Ruslan International led the project cargo market. However, tensions between Volga-Dnepr and Antonov began to grow in 2014, after Russia’s intervention in Crimea. In September 2016, Ukrainian media reports suggested


that Antonov had severed all ties with Russian enterprises, including its long-term partner, Volga-Dnepr Airlines. HLPFI reported late in 2016 that Volga-Dnepr Airlines and Antonov Airlines had confirmed that Ruslan International was to end on December 31, 2016. After the dissolution of the joint venture, Volga-Dnepr stated that it would continue to operate and sell space on its fleet of AN-124s, with Antonov providing technical support. Antonov Airlines announced that its team in the UK would take on the global sales and operations of the company's fleet of AN-124s. In 2016, Dennis Gliznoutsa, then vice president of


development and special projects at Volga-Dnepr (pictured right), said: “We have the advantage of the experience we gained from the end of our AN-124 joint venture with HeavyLift Cargo Airlines in 2001, and the subsequent growth of our outsize and heavyweight cargo business in the international market. We emerged from that joint venture stronger and now, 15 years later, we will do so again.” No doubt the termination of Ruslan International has


resulted in a changed market for project forwarders and shippers that have used the two airlines, with new structures


and staff to become acquainted with. Tere were rumours that rates had suffered huge declines since the two airlines had parted ways, but both companies denied these reports. As well as the changes that have been witnessed at the two main AN-124 operators over the past decade, the arrival of the new Boeing 747-8 freighter into the marketplace in 2011 also had a significant effect on the makeup of the global freighter fleet and consequently on the business of moving project cargo around the world by air. Airlines such as Cargolux and AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) have continued to market the capacity of their B747-8F fleets to transport oversize cargoes, as well as standard freight.


Outstanding aircraft Troughout the years we have also seen one of the most outstanding aircraft (and a behemoth of project cargo delivery by air) - the AN-225 - transport a variety of exceptional cargoes across the world. Te aircraft can move a 200-tonne payload a distance of 4,000 km and first took to the skies in 1988. In 2016, an agreement was signed between Antonov Company and the Aerospace Industry Corporation of China (AICC) to put the AN-225 back into production. Te decade has also seen countless reports that a new version of the AN- 124 was about to commence production. Te wider heavy lift airfreight sector has also seen its share of casualties. Jade Cargo, the joint venture between Shenzhen Airlines, Lufthansa and Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungs-gesellschaft (DEG), was wound up in June 2012, sending a chill down the spines of those who saw the expanding sector as hope for the future. Another high-profile casualty was Polet Airlines. In April 2015, Russia's federal air


transport agency, Rosaviatsiya, cancelled Polet’s air operator's certificate (AOC) following a dispute with


the Moscow Arbitration Court. In 2008, Maximus Air Cargo, based in Abu Dhabi, was forging its path utilising eight AN-124-100s, an Airbus A300-


HLPFI10 | 41


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