Nordic Air Cargo Symposium 2024 – Summary

The 13th Nordic Air Cargo Symposium took place in Stockholm’s magnificent Grand Hotel from 22-23APR24. It was a trade show of a special kind for many reasons: the many sparkling topics presented and discussed there; the first joint public appearance of the new cargo chiefs of SAS and Finnair; Atlas Air’s fact-filled Market Outlook tabled by Martin Drew; the overview over the salmon business including the growing challenges it is facing; and the fascinating insights into the rapidly evolving Life Science and Healthcare business and its effects on the transport and cargo industry, highlighted by Frank Van Gelder of Pharma.Aero.

However, before going into more detail on key topics, a review of the Symposium would be incomplete without mentioning this: The event was an ode to the organizer, Lars-Gunnar Comen. Not only was it the 13th Air Cargo Symposium that he had set on track but also the 50th Trade Show worldwide orchestrated by his company Euroavia. An incredible lifetime achievement.

TIACA Chairman Steven Polmans’ advice to Euroavia boss Lars-Gunnar Comen was that he should only think about retirement after he ran his 100th trade show  –  courtesy: Euroavia

ARN gets a Cargo City

The keynote speech was delivered by Jonas Abrahamsson, CEO of the public Swedish airport operator, Swedavia. He explained that air traffic is extremely important for his country due to Sweden’s geographical location on the fringes of northern Europe. Currently, passenger numbers in Sweden are still -20% below pre-pandemic times and will reach 22 million in 2023, but they are steadily increasing. Freight traffic is developing rapidly, mainly due to e-commerce. Abrahamsson announced that a new Cargo City is to be built one kilometer south of Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport. Gothenburg remains the leading logistics center, with plans for local Landvetter Airport to be expanded into an intercontinental gateway.

Slow recovery

As far as the competitiveness of Nordic airlines is concerned, they are at a clear disadvantage on routes to/from the Far East. Due to the closure of Russian airspace as a result of the Ukraine attack by Putin’s armada, SAS and Finnair have to circumvent Russia on southbound routes. This increases costs and leads to sales losses of 0.15 USD/kg in air freight in comparison to their Central or Southern European peers, stated analyst Ronald Veltmans from consulting agency Rotate. 

Seafood continues growing fast

Panelist Tom Mikkelsen of Mikkelsen Consulting, pointed at the outstanding importance of the salmon industry, especially for Norway and the Nordic airlines, including Finnair. An annual growth rate of 30% is the rule. In 2023, 1.2 million tons were produced and marketed by Norwegian salmon farms. While shipments destined for Europe are transported by truck, the other target markets, primarily the USA and the Far East, are served by air freight. In addition to the two Nordic airlines mentioned above, the main carriers are Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Korean Air, Ethiopian, the Challenge Group, but also the three integrators: DHL, UPS, and FedEx (CFG will take a closer look at the topic of seafood in our upcoming issue on 05MAY24).

More pandemics are to come

In a remarkable presentation, Frank Van Gelder, MD Medicon and Secretary General of Pharma.Aero, illustrated the transformation of the supply chain for products in the life science and healthcare industry. The starting point of his journey was the current supply situation, leading to sophisticated and futuristic personalized medicines that are precisely tailored to each patient, thanks to the creation of a digital twin. He pointed out new production processes, the monitoring of an individual’s health status from remote and the increasing use of AI. At the same time, new pandemic outbreaks are just around the corner, as the progressive growth of the world’s population and the increasing cohabitation of humans with animals have already created the starting conditions for global epidemics. A rather gloomy outlook…

Concluding remarks

Key takeaways from the events were summarized at the end of the Nordic Symposium by TIACA Chairman, Steven Polmans, who moderated the trade show in a concentrated, yet entertaining way.

  • Sustainability is on everybody’s agenda, be they airlines, forwarders, airports, or handling agents. That, including the ongoing mental change, was the good news delivered at the Stockholm event, Steven emphasized. However, the amount of SAF production is still way too low. Scaling effects are needed fast to lower the SAF price and balance demand and supply. This all the more since other modes of transportation act as competitors for the use of SAF, he reminded.
  • The salmon business is of enormous importance for the Nordic countries, including cargo transportation, but the rate of fish that die in the fish farms before commercialization is frightening high, experts speak of up to 20%.
  • In the Nordics, air freight is on the way from recovery to stability, with e-commerce being the most important growth driver.
  • AI continues to gain in importance, including in the cargo industry. However, the digitalization of processes is still too slow. It remains an urgent task to finally become faster in order to accelerate business processes and minimize sources of error.

Host, Lars-Gunnar Comen from organizer Euroavia, will soon be announcing where the 14th Nordic Air Cargo Symposium will take place next year. A hot candidate seems to be Denmark.

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