Movement of essential cargo, especially medical and pharmaceutical shipments, are treated on a priority basis at Indian airports and are moving freely despite air cargo congestion on the import side.

As per media reports, the resulting lack of manpower and truck capacity led to imports “piling up” at the country’s airports this month.

A spokesperson for Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), said it had continued its cargo handling activities, catering for increased domestic and international demand for essential commodities.

Since 23rd March, Mumbai Airport has handled 5,600 tonnes of exports and 3,500 tonnes of imports; pharma products alone, including medicines, equipment and vaccines, accounted for 4,000 tonnes.

The MIAL spokesman said that close to 300 staff members were reporting daily to process cargo. On average, the airport is handling eight to nine cargo flights a day, mostly carrying essential medical shipments to the US, Germany, South Africa, France and the UK.

He also added that scheduled freighters and ad-hoc cargo charters continue to remain operational.

“Cargo terminal and associated facilities at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) have been operating in full swing to support the Government of India in handling and processing essential commodities, especially healthcare and medical supplies,” informed Delhi Airport authorities earlier this month.

The pharmaceutical shipments, including temperature-controlled cargo, were moving smoothly according to Karthi Bhaskar, deputy MD of Kintetsu World Express (India). He said major volumes were moving to US destinations and London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Vienna, with smaller volumes to Far East.

Mr Bhaskar said, “With no passenger flights, it’s difficult to find space even with smaller ad-hoc passenger freighters such as A320/B737 being used. Around 70% of cargo is moving on charters and 30% on passenger charters, which are ‘needs-based’ planning by airlines. Rates are very high – US at $11/kg and Europe at $6/kg, on average.”

“My only concern would be that scheduled freighters are limited, hence there’s a shortage of special equipment to handle outbound,” he added.

According to Mr Bhaskar, there’s little outbound congestion at major airports, as only essential cargo is moving, but limited airline capacity means import congestion remains, due to the arrival of cargo prior to the lockdown.

Source: The Loadstar