Handling almost 5 million tons of cargo across a network of 117 air cargo centres worldwide, Swissport International has expanded further in the European market by taking a 74.9% shareholding in Dusseldorf Airport’s cargo handling unit, Flughafen Dusseldorf Cargo.
The companies entered a binding agreement in March, the German Merger Control approved the agreement in May and the merger was concluded in September.
Dirk Goovaerts, CEO Continental Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Global Cargo Chair at Swissport, says, “The Dusseldorf joint venture substantially enhances Swissport’s cargo operations in Germany and Europe, emphasising an increase in cargo volumes and the utilisation of synergies. This strategic move promotes operational efficiency, with the warehouse situated at the airport, ensuring quicker handling times for a more streamlined cargo operation.”
Swissport has plans for the facilities in Dusseldorf including an improved truck deck and castor decks. IT systems are being upgraded with the switch to the Cargo Spot cargo management system marking the completion of the operational merger. Handheld computers and kiosk services for customers will be rolled out.
Goovaerts says, “While the focus will remain on airline customers, we believe processes can be expedited by introducing additional services for freight forwarders and other members of the air cargo logistics value chain.”
Being an international company will benefit Dusseldorf’s cargo community, believes Goovaerts, who says, “We believe that Dusseldorf Airport’s cargo services and its customers will benefit from Swissport’s state-of-the-art handling equipment, IT solutions, as well as Swissport’s global network and know-how.”
Swissport is looking at additional joint ventures across Europe, applying the Dusseldorf model. Airports often lack the global network, processes and IT systems to take cargo handling to the next level, believes Goovaerts, and that is where companies like Swissport can help.
He says, “Our goal is to extend our expertise, enhance operational efficiency, and bring our advanced cargo handling capabilities to further locations.”
Something that makes Swissport stand out is its focus on system integration with Goovaerts saying, “We are firmly convinced that we can serve our customers and partners best only when we operate a single digital platform across our global operation and fully commit to improving it on a constant basis.”
Drive to decarbonise
Sustainability is at the core of decisions for Swissport and its customers. Swissport announced its Sustainability Agenda last year, which included ESG measures to decarbonise operations, avoid waste in all areas of business and make Swissport more attractive as an employer.
Fossil fuel powered vehicles are a major source of carbon emissions; Swissport has the target of cutting CO2 emissions by at least 42% by 2032 and aims for at least 55% of it fleet to be electrically powered to reach this goal.
Mandatory waste-avoidance will be part of Swissport’s waste management policy, which will be rolled out at 120 air cargo centres by 2027.
By the end of 2021, 16.5% of equipment was either electric or hybrid power.
Goovaerts says Swissport integrates sustainability goals with decision-making processes, saying, “Our commitment extends to investing in comprehensive training programs and cutting edge equipment to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees. Our dedication spans environmental protection, health, safety and the quality of our services.”
Diversity is an area of focus; one third of employees are female, exceeding IATA’s target of 25% and the same share has been reached in the Global Management Team.
Initially the aim was for women to make up at least 25% of leadership below the C-level with Swissport aiming for 40% in the next few years.
“To meet our environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, we actively seek collaboration with local industries whenever possible. This spirit of collaboration not only reinforces our commitment to sustainability, but also strengthens our ties to the communities in which we operate,” he says.
Goovaerts admits 2023 has been a difficult year for air cargo with China not contributing to tonnage as it had in previous years, which hurt imports. Exports did better in the second half of the year.
“In a challenging environment, Swissport Cargo demonstrated notable success by extending services to additional customer groups, such as air cargo forwarders. With our expanded service portfolio and strengthened market position we have a positive outlook on 2024,” he says.
Despite the challenges, the outlook is still good for Europe, with Goovaerts adding, “It is currently one of the geographies where we can offer our widest and most intensive network to our customers and we will continue to grow together with them as volumes continue their path of recovery.”