Heavy lift air cargo recovers under pandemic pressure


The heavy-lift sector is showing signs of "defrosting" after a period of freezing because of the epidemic, although some challenges are still ahead. 

On the positive side, Volga-Dnieper airlines showed some signs of recovery as the world began to change over the past two years. 

According to Ekaterina Andreeva, Commercial Director of Volga-Dnepr: “It is expected that our ‘traditional’ contributing sectors will keep on their growth trajectory, with aerospace and heavy machinery going over 6% up in 2022 tonnage-wise; high technology (which covers a lot of oversized and out-of-gauge pieces) over 8%; automotive over 5%; capital equipment over 1%, to name a few (as per figures from Seabury Consulting),” says Ekaterina Andreeva, commercial director at Volga-Dnepr. “We look positively into 2022.” 

Other firms also show optimism in the next 12 months, as Andriy Blagovisniy, commercial director of Antonov shared: “We believe that the share of super heavy and oversized cargoes will keep growing in our air shipments, which are the main specializations for Antonov Airlines". 

Antonov has recorded an increase in the number of project cargo flights, but that number is still much lower than in the pre-pandemic period. Currently, the project cargo segment accounts for 5.7% of the airline's total flights. 

From the Chapman Freeborn’s report, Russi Batliwala, chairman of the firm, views the situation will become quieter, concluding "business as usual" and no major changes in the short to medium term on oversized projects and usage of the aircraft. 

Heavy lift transport spotlight for Old & gas 

In Volga-Dnepr, one-third of its trucking operations go to its large power and equipment partners, the remaining 15% to aerospace and 8% to oil and gas. 

For the aerospace sector, the main contributors include China, the Middle East, North America, while for the energy and large equipment sectors: Europe, India, Far East of Russia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the oil and gas sector includes: India, Far East, and Europe. 

In addition, the heavy-lift is an emerging segment due to the impacts of Covid-19, although the pandemic is the biggest challenge for the industry. 

Continue challenges from the pandemic 

Companies attained additional safety measures to adapt to Covid-19 restriction policies 

According to Ms. Andreeva: “One thing I would like to highlight is that it has been and still (is) challenging for our crew and technical personnel to operate overseas, due to constantly changing Covid-19 restrictions. We implement all the necessary measures to guarantee the health and safety of the crew and keep the global supply chains moving but sometimes Covid-19 still affects our operations."

Another problem is the shortage of ground staff at China's major airports, the complexities of changing staff, and relying on passenger airlines. 

To overcome these problems, processes have been applied include: mandatory testing of crew members before each flight, ensuring timely crew changeovers for regular flights, and most importantly, vaccination for staff.

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