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Emirates SkyCargo transports 500-600 tons of perishables every day on flights across the world

Since the pandemic, Emirates SkyCargo has seen significant growth in sea and air volumes moving through the UAE. Dubai has a strategic advantage in terms of its geographical location. It also boasts an unrivalled infrastructure to serve the needs of the global logistics industry with its strong sea and air links. To know more, we interviewed Dennis Lister, vice president of cargo commercial development at Emirates SkyCargo.
Sat 17/09/2022 by Gloria Zorrilla
Emirates SkyCargo operates two cargo terminals in Dubai.
Emirates Fresh combines the strength of a modern aircraft fleet with an infrastructure that includes extensive cool chain facilities at its cargo terminals.
Emirates SkyCargo flew over 262,000 tons of perishables in 2021.
Dennis Lister, vice president of cargo commercial development at Emirates SkyCargo

What is your logistics and storage capacity? And what is your national presence or market share?

Emirates SkyCargo operates two cargo terminals in Dubai. The first is Emirates SkyCentral DXB at Dubai International airport, which handles all the cargo from our passenger aircraft, and the second is Emirates SkyCentral DWC at Dubai World Central, which handles all the cargo from our freighter aircraft.

Emirates SkyCentral DXB has a capacity of well over two million tons of cargo. It has an extensive handling area comprising a five-storey Automatic Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS) with more than 10,000 loose cargo storage locations, and a sizeable seven-storey Pallet Container Handling System (PCHS) for 3,300 Unit Load Devices (ULDs), 220 of which are dedicated positions for temperature-controlled ULDs. In September 2016, we added an 11,000 m2 extension to our cargo terminal at DXB. An important part of this extension was our dedicated state-of-the-art pharma handling facility which was inaugurated in September 2016. 

Emirates SkyCentral DWC is spread over 70,000 m2 and has a current cargo handling capacity of close to 750,000 tons per annum. Emirates SkyCentral DWC has 15,000 m2 of dedicated storage for temperature-sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals, fresh fruits and vegetables and seafood. The facilities include three temperature-controlled storage rooms for pharma in addition to 72 cool cell and 144 ULD positions.

With Emirates SkyCargo’s dual operation of belly-hold cargo being managed at SkyCentral at Dubai International and freighter cargo at DWC, cargo is moved 24/7 by truck between the two airports via a bonded virtual corridor. Emirates SkyCargo has 47 trucks that ply the virtual corridor between the two airports, with each truck equipped with satellite tracking to ensure the safety and security of cargo and staff. The movement of cargo between the two airports is achieved seamlessly with a transit time of just five hours for ULDs between the arrival of goods to their departure from freighter to belly-hold and vice versa. We reached a milestone in early August 2018, when we transported 1 million ULDs between the two terminals on our trucking service.

In addition, Emirates SkyCargo has obtained EU GDP (Good Distribution Practices) certification for its entire pharma handling operations (two hubs and the trucking operations between hubs) at Dubai.

We are currently reviewing the next steps to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure to support our further growth in volume and introduction of specialised services that require dedicated infrastructure.

In addition to infrastructure development at our hubs, we are working with ground handlers at the destinations we operate to improve processes and help develop purpose-built infrastructure for cargo. We implemented the pharma corridors initiative in 2018. In order to enhance the protection for temperature-sensitive pharma cargo from origin to destination, we work with stakeholders on the ground to ensure that handling operations for pharmaceuticals at these stations are uniform and comply with Emirates SkyCargo’s stringent norms for pharma transport. As the world’s largest international cargo airline, Emirates SkyCargo has always taken a leading role in establishing and adhering to industry norms and guidelines. We currently have 20 pharma stations across our network and will be looking at rolling out more in the future.

What storage capacities and volumes do you have for fresh products?

Perishables is an important part of our business and we transport an estimated 500-600 tons of perishables every day on our flights across the world. We have been transporting perishable cargo for decades and we used our expertise to launch a new specialised service in 2018: Emirates Fresh.

Emirates Fresh combines the strength of our modern aircraft fleet with our state-of-the-art infrastructure, including extensive cool chain facilities at our two cargo terminals in Dubai. In addition, we have also developed innovative products such as the White Cover thermal blanket in partnership with DuPont to provide a protective layer against heat for the transport of perishables. We have also introduced the Emirates Fresh Ventilated Cool Dolly, which brings in air from the outside environment and cools it before circulating it, allowing for much better retention of the freshness of the perishable cargo being transported.

As previously stated, with our investment in transporting pharma such as the large investment in Cool Dollys and how we move pharma globally, we are constantly updating our Emirates Fresh service. Emirates Fresh is for products that can handle minor fluctuations in temperature. Emirates SkyCargo introduced Emirates Fresh Breathe, which provides ventilated cool chain solutions for delicate perishables such as fresh-cut flowers, and Emirates Fresh Active provides intensive cool chain protection for perishables that cannot withstand any temperature deviation.

What share do you allocate to the different perishable items (e.g. agricultural products, flowers, medicines, meat & fish) and what growth have you recorded?

Emirates SkyCargo flew over 262,000 tons of perishables in 2021. Our top five exporting countries were India, which chiefly involved fruit and vegetables. Kenya’s main export was flowers and from Norway we mainly carried salmon. Ecuador was also another top exporter of fresh flowers and Pakistan’s main export with us was chilled meat.

Our air-freighted perishables consist of 30% fruit and veg, 24% fish and 25% flowers, with the remainder made up of meat, dairy produce, wine and frozen food.

Do you have any international developments in other Asian markets or with air/sea transport operations abroad?

Since the pandemic, we have seen significant growth in sea and air volumes through the UAE. Dubai has a strategic advantage in terms of its geographical location. It also boasts an unrivalled infrastructure to serve the needs of the global logistics industry with its strong sea and air links. Emirates SkyCargo offers a large network capacity to 140 destinations in every direction. From Emirates SkyCentral at Dubai World Central (DWC), the Jebil Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) is only 20 minutes away by truck. It’s the 9th busiest port in the world and has a handling capacity of 19.3 million TEU.

Emirates SkyCentral at Dubai Airport is less than 15 minutes from Al Hamriya Port, which serves as one of the most efficient ports for bulk and breakbulk cargo, and can service a wide variety of vessels. Our relationships with DP World and Dubai Customs make the solution a lot more viable and accessible. They streamline and speed up our turnaround timelines to average only four hours from port to airport. We have seen such a diversification of commodities using the air-sea routes, which can range from garments and apparel to high-tech, fresh produce and pharmaceuticals.

For e-commerce & supermarkets, what specific strategies and solutions do you have in place for fresh products?

As market leaders, we continue to diversify our strategy, and as a part of this initiative, we connect small and medium-size growers, fresh producers and associations to reach the global market with our strong portfolio. As previously stated, we introduced Emirates Fresh Breathe, which provides ventilated cool chain solutions for delicate perishables such as fresh-cut flowers, and Emirates Fresh Active provides intensive cool chain protection for perishables that cannot withstand any temperature deviation. We are also launching an initiative to bring agri-tech farmers from India to Dubai for a major food exhibition, Gulfood, with the plan to link them up with suppliers and buyers directly.

What new services do you have?

Our exciting new product Emirates Delivers is the e-commerce solution for our B2C consumers. It is a fast, reliable and cost-effective international e-commerce shipping solution. Emirates Delivers is targeted both at individual customers as well as small businesses in the UAE who regularly shop online at international e-commerce websites for their personal or business needs. The service, currently available for UAE residents shopping from websites in the US, helps customers save on shipping and transportation charges by allowing them to consolidate purchases from multiple online retailers in the US into a single package and have them delivered to a home or office address in the UAE.

We are continuously looking at new markets to expand our operations.

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