‘Addressing Sustainability and Diversity issues will be on top of my mind’ – Steven Polmans, Chairman-Designate, TIACA

Polmans believes that the aviation market in India is a tough place to operate. Still, he carries an optimistic outlook because of opportunities which lie in the Indian air cargo market

Steven Polmans, Director Cargo and Logistics – Brussels Airport Company is all set to take the chairmanship of The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) from July 1. Sebastiaan Scholte – the outgoing chairman and Steven Polmans had kicked off a fresh vision for TIACA 18 months ago, during the time the association successfully expanded its global footprints and launched an online airport rating system, the Cargo Service Quality (CSQ) tool.

Polmans prior to stepping into chairman’s shoes gave an exclusive interview to Logistics Insider and provided a sneak peek of his vision through which he is planning to steer the association. Polmans said, “I and Sanjeev Gadhia – the new vice chairman have pledged to build on the new framework, putting sustainability and diversity issues at the forefront.” In the interview, Polmans also talked about the recent initiative Brussels Airport has taken to ensure smooth cargo throughput and his outlook on the Indian air cargo market. Excerpts:

Q) Brussels Airport is clearly leading the way in freight digitization initiatives by its newly launched blockchain based application to digitize transactions between carriers and 3PL companies. How will the new application facilitate smooth cargo throughput from the airport?

Rolling out the Blockchain based application was just one of the several digital solutions which we have launched in the last two years on our open data sharing platform BRUcloud (www.brucloud.com).

The main idea behind launching multiple applications, offering operational or efficiency solutions to the users, is to gather data on the platform resulting in one large landside management tool. Collection of such an enormous amount of data will help us in working in a paperless, digital and more efficient way.    

This specific application with blockchain technology takes care of the handover process between terminal operators/handling agents and freight forwarders in a completely digital manner.

Q) With the new National Air Cargo Policy in place and significant investment in enhancing logistical infrastructure, India is aiming spot in top 5 global air freight markets of the world by the year 2025. Considering this, how much potential do you see in Indian air cargo market?

The size of the country, the population and the economic growth figures clearly show that India has a huge potential when it comes to air cargo. However, still a lot of work needs to be done to fully harness the country’s potential. And, the privatization of Air India and the recent grounding of Jet Airways clearly show that the aviation market in India is not an easy market to operate in. However, I am positive about the outlook and opportunities which lie in the Indian air cargo market.

Q) Considering the untoward incident like the 2016 terror attack, what are the efforts taken by Brussels Airport to ramp up the security of the airport in recent years? Also, what steps have been taken in terms of securing air cargo at the airport?

The terror attack of 2016 was an unfortunate event which happened despite security being up to the standard at that point of time. It was a challenge for us to increase security and at the same time keeping the passenger experience manageable.

So a lot of technology was used and several infrastructural changes were made at the airport in order to ramp up the security. On the cargo side, we fully follow and respect the European Security Regulations in the process. And, when it comes to our first line buildings which are being built or redeveloped, we are adding an additional security line and additional fencing for the security purpose.

From Left to Right - Vladimir Zubkov, Secretary General, TIACA; Sebastiaan Scholte, outgoing Chairman, TIACA; Steven Polmans, Chairman-Designate, TIACA; Sanjeev Gadhia, Vice Chairman - Designate, TIACA
From Left to Right – Vladimir Zubkov, Secretary General, TIACA; Sebastiaan Scholte, outgoing Chairman, TIACA; Steven Polmans, Chairman-Designate, TIACA; Sanjeev Gadhia, Vice Chairman – Designate, TIACA

Q) Brussels Airport is investing heavily in cold chain and other logistics related infrastructure in order to ensure efficient handling of pharma products and high-value cargo at the airport. How the airport is planning to capitalize on such a huge amount of investment considering the weak demand for cargo in the global market?

When investing, we as an airport have a very strong focus on the longer term. As I mentioned above, the longer forecast remains healthy and thus should not be a concern. In recent years, we had a growth of 25% to 35% for pharma shipments. Even today, these volumes are still growing. Hence, we are investing in a structured way to deliver solutions which are needed by the market.

Q) As you succeed Sebastian Scholte as the new chairman of TIACA from July 1, how do you plan to steer the association under your leadership? Can you please share some of the highlights of your four-year action plan for the association?  

I and Sebastian had developed a 4-year plan together when both of us were at the helm of TIACA two years ago. We are still implementing and following that plan meticulously. The main goal of the plan was to make TIACA strong and financially healthy while at the same time shifting the association’s focus to make it more content driven.            

One of the most important areas that we focused on was how we can deliver value for our members while at the same time keeping our strengths as an association intact. In the past, we did a great job on this side and will continue our efforts in the similar direction.

‘Sustainability’ and how we as an industry and individual company can contribute to this and guarantee our long-time survival as the air cargo industry will be on the top of my mind. Finally, we will also continue our cooperation and partnerships with other organizations and industry bodies such as IATA, WCO, ACI and ICAO to steer the association on the growth path.

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