Indian Air Cargo Industry Aims for Growth Amidst Regulatory Hurdles

The Indian air cargo sector is targeting a significant increase in annual throughput at airports, aiming to reach 10 million metric tons by 2030. This ambitious goal faces challenges from stringent security measures and time-consuming processes, prompting industry stakeholders to urge the government for streamlined procedures.

In FY 2024, Indian airports handled 3.36 million metric tons of cargo, a 7% increase from the previous year. This includes a 3% rise in domestic cargo and a 9.7% growth in international cargo. However, these figures are still dwarfed by global leaders like Hong Kong International Airport, which handled 4.3 million metric tons in 2023.

A critical obstacle is the security regulation that mandates rescreening of cargo, both domestic and international. This process increases costs and complexity, making Indian airports less competitive. Additionally, customs procedures for international goods that transit through multiple airlines require pre-clearance, which remains time-consuming despite automation.

To address these issues, Delhi Airport has established a Transshipment Excellence Center (TEC) to streamline processes. The airport has also facilitated the transshipment of 8,000 metric tons of cargo from Bangladesh, positioning itself as a key hub for Southeast Asia. Despite these advancements, transshipment at Delhi airport only accounts for 10% of its total cargo, indicating significant growth potential.

Air India is pushing for a review of transshipment policies to offer more competitive cargo services. A recent delegation visited airports in Germany and Singapore to study their transshipment practices, and industry leaders are advocating for an EU-style security validation program to eliminate redundant rescreening.

Operational challenges also include limited connecting flights and ground equipment speed restrictions. CK Govil, president of the Air Cargo Agents Association of India, emphasized the need for efficient handling of transshipment cargo and addressing city-side issues like traffic and parking. “Freight forwarders must provide cost-effective logistics in a streamlined environment. Additionally, city-side challenges such as traffic and parking issues also need addressing,” he added.

While the Indian air cargo industry has set ambitious targets for growth, achieving these will require significant regulatory and operational reforms. By addressing current inefficiencies and adopting global best practices, Indian airports can enhance their competitiveness and become major players in the international cargo landscape.

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