American Shipper / Eric Kulisch / April 6, 2022
Like most freight agents and logistics managers, Crane Worldwide Logistics doesn’t want to own aircraft, vessels or warehouses. The non-asset-based model promotes flexibility and higher margins. But the calculus changes when there isn’t enough transportation space to efficiently move customers’ goods.
International passenger flying is still half of what it was two years ago, before the pandemic, and all-cargo aircraft are mostly booked on major trade lanes. Waiting to reserve space close to the desired departure date is a recipe for delay.
To lock up dedicated cargo capacity, and bypass congested U.S. gateways, Crane Worldwide recently launched a major air charter program, buying 82 entire flights from Baku, Azerbaijan-based Silk Way West Airlines and routing them to less-crowded Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).
Crane is basically acting as a quasi airline, managing every aspect of air transport from sales to door delivery except flying the aircraft. Renting full plane loads for long periods is trending in air cargo because cross-border trade is strong, ocean freight is spilling over to avoid port delays and airlift capacity is still 10% below 2019 levels.
Prior to the pandemic, the third-party logistics provider limited itself to prepurchasing blocks of space with airlines on popular shipping lanes “and that’s really impossible today,” said Chad Taylor, Crane’s executive vice president of global operations, in an interview.
“There’s just not enough capacity out there. If you don’t do some sort of program with these freighters, then you just have to get out of the airfreight market, especially from Asia. It’s just too difficult to get reliable service” with passenger or scheduled cargo airlines.
With freight forwarders waiting up to a week to recover shipments at Chicago O’Hare International Airport because short-staffed cargo terminals are flooded by all-cargo aircraft, and excessively high trucking rates, Crane opted for a centrally located secondary airport where cargo would get priority attention at a better cost.
The third-party logistics provider hired Silk Way to operate the cargo flights utilizing Boeing 747-400 or 747-8 freighters from Bangkok to CVG and on to Luxembourg through the remainder of the year. Planes are landing once a week at CVG until May, when Crane will start a weekly service from Hong Kong to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky via Luxembourg. Both planes return to Luxembourg and then feed back into Silk Way’s network in Baku.
Bangkok is a major export center for automotive and high-tech goods. Taylor said Crane Worldwide also trucks freight from Saigon, Malaysia and Singapore to the Thai capital to fill up the 747s.
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