Qatar Airways airfreight demand rebounds despite siege
08 Sep 2017 - 20:05
Qatar has seen airfreight demand return to pre-blockade levels following the introduction of new shipping routes from Asia and Oman.
In the weeks following the announcement of blockade in June, Qatar Airways Cargo saw 160 percent year-on-year increases in imports as the government requisitioned air freight capacity to airlift food in.
To keep up with a shift from a usual daily 180 tonnes of perishable goods to 900 tonnes, the carrier brought in third-party aircraft including military C17s, B747Fs, A300Fs, A330Fs and Ilyushins.
Chief Cargo Officer at Qatar Airways Ulrich Ogiermann told The Loadstar the “illegal” blockade had provided some initial challenges but the carrier had reacted “swiftly” and proven its “resilience”.
He added: “Managing such a precipitous increase in imports fully stress-tested Qatar Airways Cargo’s facilities. Thankfully, we had planned well ahead for commercial growth. “These investments proved more than capable of accommodating the demand, serving grateful importers and restocking supermarket shelves with ample supplies of fresh produce overnight.”
The carrier also increased frequencies to Hong Kong from 17 freighters a week to 21, upped capacity into the Indian sub-continent and increased charter capacity globally.
Ogiermann said food inventory levels were now “fully restocked”, adding: “While the majority of imports now come by ship, we continue to manage the national air cargo requirements using leased freighters, leaving our commercial operations at full capacity.
“We have also seen some benefits from the blockade: we have proven our resilience, retained business and customers and have expedited some of the plans we had in place.”
Qatar has been actively investing in the agriculture and food sector, through Hassad Food, in line with a “food security” policy to increase the quality and quantity of crop production by 2030. And because of the blockade, the country brought forward plans to develop its own dairy industry, which have seen Qatar Airways Cargo begin the transport of 4,000 Holstein cows.
“We began these livestock shipments on more than 20 B777 charter freighters to Doha,” said Ogiermann. “This is the first time Qatar has experienced an airlift of this magnitude to support the establishment of a new industry.”