Fruit Logistica – Part 1: FL is a yearly must for Lufthansa Cargo…

… states Oliver Blum (OB), Head of Airmail, Courier, and Perishables Handling. The carrier moves between 80,000 and 100,000 tons of fresh produce annually in the bellies of the airline’s passenger fleet and the main decks of its own B777 freighters. This corresponds to around 8% of the total volume processed by the airline, states the manager.

In a one-to-one meeting with CargoForwarder Global at the trade show, the expert illustrated the special challenges this product poses for the transportation industry.

His name says it all: Blum means flower  – all pictures: CFG / hs

OB: At Lufthansa Cargo, fruit and vegetables account for between 45% and 50% of perishables flown by us, followed by flowers, meat and maritime items, and some typical seasonal products such as strawberries, mangoes, and papayas.

Especially for the African continent, but also for some Latin American countries, the cultivation and export of fresh produce is essential. They are the backbone of the local economy, providing employment and enable the influx of foreign currency.

CFG: Why are these products so extremely demanding while traveling from field to table?

OB: Literally every hour counts during transportation, to ensure product quality. Even the smallest mishandling can mean that an entire consignment, such as seafood, can no longer be sold. When a shipment of fresh produce arrives, we immediately check the conditions the goods are in and inform the customer. If there are temperature deviations, we inform the consignee right away. In case the goods need to be cooled down, we place them in a cooler, provided the customer okays this step. Afterwards, they are loaded on board a thermos truck that ensures a constant climate throughout its journey. Particularly London and Birmingham are special routes we serve, driven by the demand of local consumers.

CFG: Their hunger must be immense because during the high season of certain products, mostly in November and December, between 50 and 80 trucks cross the Channel on your behalf every week. Can you confirm this?

The trade show offered plenty of space and opportunities for networking

OB: This figure is correct. But don’t forget that we also serve many other routes. To secure product integrity all along the way, we collaborate with hand-picked trucking firms. In this context, I would particularly like to highlight the performance of road feeder service provider, Wallenborn, from Luxembourg, with whom we have been working with since JUL23. Result: Wallenborn manages the entire supply chain extremely professionally, combined with excellent communication skills.

The documentary part of onforwarding we have handed over to Sotracom. It is a Paris-headquartered neutral agent, operating from its German base in Frankfurt. Sotracom is also highly professional and extremely reliable. This is proven by data delivered by warehouses in the UK. These freight terminals allocate slots to truckers for the arrival and acceptance of incoming shipments. More than 90% of trucks running on our behalf meet their time frame, warehouse stats evidence. This happens day in, day out, despite occasional waiting times at Dover, caused by customs clearance procedures or harsh weather conditions. 

CFG: How many members belong to your fresh logistics team responsible for securing the fast throughput of this extremely temperature and time critical produce family, and for removing any obstacles that may pop up?

This Vietnamese lady did not belong to the Lufthansa Cargo team but she enjoyed the exhibition anyway  

OB: Our team consists of seven members. We generally work in shifts from 06:00 in the morning until 22:00 in the evening. For specific time-critical consignments or occasionally extremely high volumes, we also work all around the clock. Of particular importance to customers is that members of our team are always available during working hours. I would like to emphasize that we don’t just do a job, we feel morally obliged to guarantee the product integrity of the food. The fact that almost a third of all fresh produce ends up in garbage cans instead of landing on the consumer’s table is a huge scandal. So, engaging in the perishables business is for me, personally, and also my colleagues, a question of passion and moral stewardship.

Lufthansa Cargo’s two A321Fs are still out of service
For about a month now, two A321 freighters leased by Lufthansa Cargo have been undergoing repair work in one of the Group’s MRO centers.

They were taken out of operation after tiny cracks were discovered in the aft section of both P2F converted jetliners. One of the aircraft should have been repaired and been back in the air by now. Asked by CargoForwarder Global about the reason for the delay, Lufthansa Cargo spokeswoman, Katharina Stegmann, said that “minor technical anomalies” were discovered on the aircraft during inspection. As an example, she cited the pane of a cockpit window that needed to be replaced. However, this has not yet been done due to delivery problems. The replacement part is now on its way and will be installed immediately after arrival. So, the freighter will return to service in the coming days, she said. Further information on the repair status of the other A321F was not provided.

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