The Middle East: The world's logistics hub

The Middle East remains a convenient and efficient region with a well-earned reputation as a good place to do business.

Much like the rest of the world, 2023 got off to a slow start for the Middle East as the air cargo industry dealt with the slump in volumes and the aviation industry moving its focus back to passenger services.

Guillaume Crozier, SVP of UAE Cargo and Global Cargo Strategy at dnata, says markets across dnata had varied results with the Netherlands proving strong, recovery in Asia Pacific proving slower and Australia is doing well.

Commenting on 2023, Crozier says, “The year began quietly but ended with the festive season bringing a global volume surge, which of course was very welcome, and an interesting resource challenge. It also brought about service level agreement management.”

In Dubai, there has been a continuous rush in volumes since the summer, which Crozier says is due to the UAE’s geographic position, business-friendly environment and robust infrastructure.

There is good connectivity between the airports and ports, which means customers can be offered sea-air solutions.

The domestic UAE market did well, with Crozier saying, “A strong domestic market supports good growth across all product lines, including valuables, commodities and fast-moving goods. This is a trend that has been set up to continue growing in 2024.”

Globally, the market is aiming for 5% year-on-year in 2024.

Crozier comments that some markets such as the Middle East and Africa are accelerating and Europe has the potential to bounce back after the challenges of 2023.

“We will continue to work hard and be versatile and agile in terms of cost effectiveness and throughput efficiency, because I see more and more requirements for dnata as a ground handler to achieve economies of scale, delivering our outstanding service to customers at a very competitive price,” says Crozier.

Digital services continue to be enhanced with the OneCargo platform being implemented in markets including the UAE this year.

The plan is to use the platform across dnata’s global network within the next two years.

The new generation of Calogi, dnata’s airport community system, will be launched this year with benefits including providing greater real-time visibility for customers.

Crozier says Calogi will provide customers with more services, moving from a traditional warehouse offering to more third-party logistics and covering fulfilment centres.

This includes ground transportation, road feeder services and first- and last-mile activity for e-commerce.

Implementing the new generation of Calogi will enable dnata to connect to all stakeholders, covering the handling operation end-to- end and helping dnata comply with data exchange requirements such as IATA’s PLACI (Pre-Loading Advanced Cargo Information) and ICS (Inbound Control System).

ICS is a principle guiding countries to increase the level of data they share with consignees ahead of cargo being exported, explains Crozier.

He says, “This is all important, because it will be implemented into the airport community system and our data strategy in our OneCargo system, which will then become more and more capable and compliant.”

Computer vision technology will be implemented this year following success in Singapore working with Speedcargo and helping Etihad Cargo take advantage of the technology.

Crozier says, “This is a spearhead to what to expect within our network, in the UK, UAE and at our new facility in Amsterdam. This technology will help us to capture dimensions, weight of cargo and provide customers near real-time visibility of the process, a type of track and trace service.”

Sustainable development is important to dnata with progress being made in reducing carbon emissions and waste to landfill by 20% by this year.

Last year, dnata become the first air services provider in the UAE to receive IATA’s Environmental Management Certification (IEnvA) recognising its commitment to sustainability.

“We practice a circular economy whereby we recycle plastics and other commodities, which come back as warehouse items such as plastic warehouse pallets. We will continue to reach our targets throughout the rest of this year,” says Crozier.

With another year getting underway, Crozier sees new countries doing business, which brings opportunities because Dubai is being used as a transit hub for airlines. Demographics are also changing in Dubai.

Crozier says, “Towards the end of 2023, we also saw very solid volumes of e-commerce, both arriving into and transiting through Dubai, in time for the festive season. We believe this will continue into 2024.”

Confident about the future
Emirates SkyCargo plans to expand its fleet and services after another successful year in 2023.

Providing an end-of-year update, Emirates SkyCargo said it was outperforming the market and had carried almost 1.2 million tonnes of cargo between January and mid-December, an increase of 7%.

In the statement, Nabil Sultan, Divisional Senior Vice President said, “Looking to the future, we are well-positioned to steadily scale up operations in 2024, continuing our strategic growth to ensure we lead the industry in solutions that are fast, reliable, flexible, and efficient.”

Emirates SkyCargo is helping Dubai to position itself as the world’s largest logistics hub, in line with the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33) by growing its fleet and network.

In the first quarter, Emirates SkyCargo leased two Boeing 747-400Fs, joining the fleet of 11 Boeing 777Fs and 251 passenger aircraft.

Four new B777-200Fs are expected to join the fleet this year with a fifth arrival next year.

There are 310 widebody passenger aircraft on the order book, which Emirates says will provide cargo capacity through to 2035.

In May, two new products were launched under the Life Sciences and Healthcare vertical.

Emirates Vital is designed to transport clinical trials, cells and gene therapies, and human samples, and Emirates Medical Devices transports goods from pacemakers to MRIs.

Since their launch, the two products have transported almost 1,000 tonnes.

The Emirates Delivers network expanded into Kuwait, providing door-to-door international delivery of items purchased from the UK and US to e-commerce shoppers.

The wider Middle East region has been underserved for e-commerce shipments, and Emirates Delivers will be significantly scaled-up this year.

Progress continues to be made in digitalisation with capacity being made available on the CargoAi and WebCargo marketplaces, in addition to Emirates SkyCargo’s e-SkyCargo platform.

In October, Emirates SkyCargo launched a host-to-host connection with Kuehne+Nagel to provide direct access to its products and services from the freight forwarder’s internal booking engine.

Growing sustainably is important with Emirates SkyCargo saying that programmes on the ground ensure that 75% of plastic sheeting in Dubai is recycled through optimising aircraft loading.

In August, the Emirates Group achieved IATA Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) Stage One and IEnvA Illegal Wildlife Trade module certification, acknowledging its commitment to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking.

To reflect Emirates SkyCargo’s contribution to global trade, the campaign “The World Works Better with Emirates SkyCargo” was launched to show how people and businesses benefit from Emirates SkyCargo’s operations.

This article was published in the February 2024 issue of Air Logistics International, click here to read the digital edition and click here to subscribe.