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“Committed to our goal to become Europe’s smartest cargo hub.” – Schiphol Airport

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Not many know that the Schiphol Airport is located at the bed of the Haarlemmer Lake, more than 4 meters below sea level. It is one of the world’s most low-lying airports but also the oldest to occupy the same location. The Schiphol Group was also awarded a royal seal in 2016 on completion of its 100 years and has a special training plane for firefighters called ‘The Firefly’. The Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is also a Main Port/Mainport i.e. a hub for many different modes of transport including cars, lorries and trains as well as planes. Every runway at Schiphol has its own name and technical code wherein, the numbers in the code indicate the location of the runway. Interesting, right? We got in touch with Roos Bakker, Director of Business Development, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Cargo and asked her about the other interesting facts and figures about the Airport. Read on for more!

Q] What makes Schiphol Europe’s leading cargo airport?

We work together with the handlers to define Standard Operating Procedures, based on international standards. Together with the efforts in the Smart Cargo Mainport Program (SCMP) to create seamless cargo processes, this leads to stable, reliable, and predictable processes at Schiphol. The airport’s role is to lead this change, to bring handlers and other stakeholders together to work on this and to define the minimum quality standards at our airport, and become the smartest cargo hub in Europe.

Q] What do you imply when you say ‘smartest cargo hub’?

There are two pillars of our cargo strategy that focus on managing capacity i.e. top connectivity and seamless cargo processes, with the third focusing on sustainability, and safety & security. Digitalization is our way to enable these ambitions. Schiphol is devoting considerable effort towards its development program, the SCMP. Projects in this program optimize landside pick-up and delivery processes, through new process agreements, digitalization and adopted physical infrastructure. Our SCMP benefits our Mainport, as the name somewhat gives away, but the lessons learned and the way of working are shared with a range of stakeholders in our region. Automated nomination is the latest in a series of digital initiatives under the SCMP that are streamlining cargo services at Schiphol, including the digital station declaration, which has made handling more structured and secure since January 2022, and the Milkrun project, which has streamlined truck movements at the airport.

At the same time as optimizing cargo processes, we are working towards Schiphol’s goal of being a zero-waste, zero-emission airport by 2030. This means that truck movements will become electric, cargo handlers’ warehouses will not use fossil fuel in the future, and aircraft will taxi electrically with the TaxiBot (a semi-autonomous system that enables aircraft taxiing without engines running). Schiphol invests heavily to increase the capacity of the electricity network in all areas, including the cargo area.

Q] The air cargo volume at Schiphol comprises three ‘flows’. Tell us more about Schiphol as a transport hub.

Schiphol is a multi-modal cargo hub. It is well connected by air, well connected by road, and in close proximity to the major ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. This combination makes it an efficient, competitive, reliable and 24/7 gateway to and from Europe. The cargo hub attracts multiple airlines, cargo handlers, forwarders, and road transport companies. Schiphol Cargo works in close cooperation with these companies, including crucial government co-makers (Customs, State Police). The objective of this collaboration is to organize and facilitate an optimal end-to-end cargo process and achieve continuous improvement.

Q] Give us an insight into the commodity share for cargo shipments that arrive at Schiphol airport.

The total annual tonnage of air cargo processed by Schiphol Airport was 1.6 million tonnes in 2021. About 31% of this amount consists of perishables (flowers and food). The share of high-tech goods was 21%, machine parts and automotive accounted for 12%. Pharma is a developing and important product line; it’s relatively limited (as yet) in tonnage, but high in value.


This is an abridged version of the original interview published in the August edition of Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.

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