Group Managing Director of the company, Olatokunbo Fagbemi (Mrs) made this known at the Airport Business Summit & Expo, 2021, holding at NIGAV Expo Centre, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos in a paper titled: Resolving Cargo Ground Handling Operational Challenges
According to the GMD, it is a fact that the ground handling sub sector of the aviation sector is grappling with several challenges, ranging from poor airport facility, lack of funding, governmental challenges, and multiple taxation.
She said,”In resolving our operational challenges, we need to spell out in clear terms what constitutes challenges. These include poor infrastructure, lack of low interest capital, difficulty in ease of doing business and lack of synergy amongst stakeholders.
Mrs. Fagbemi said, “NAHCO, through the Aviation Ground Handlers Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) have appealed to government for duty waiver and low interest rate loans and grants similar to that given to airlines. I use this opportunity to appeal to the Honourable Minister and DG to assist us in this regard.
“In summary, as a ground handler, one of our major challenge is being able to provide adequate infrastructure, facilities, and equipment to service our customers due the capital-intensive nature of the aviation business. This has been greatly hindered by the lack of access to cheap long-term funds which can be used to purchase and replace aging equipment as well as improve our infrastructure.
“Just like the other critical industries where government has directly supported them through various incentives, Ground handlers and not just the airlines should be able to access these special loans to be able to run our business, as everyone is aware the aviation industry is a capital-intensive industry that requires a lot on investments in equipment, spares, infrastructure, and training. The cost of purchase and maintenance of Ground Support Equipment is astronomical and in foreign currency.
In the area of airport infrastructure, Fagbemi said that NAHCO requires support from FAAN especially with regards provision and maintenance of key infrastructure within the airports such as scanning machines, electricity, security etc as these greatly hinders their activities.
She said,”Having to provide for some of these facilities or take on some of these responsibilities put additional pressure of our already dwindling revenue. “
Fagbemi further explained that safety is NAHCO’s primary core value and with increases in ramp operations, complexity in ground equipment, traffic control systems, and diversity of service providers on the ramp, reducing ground handling incidents is a constant battle
She said,” Overcoming this challenge has led to a revamp of our HSEQ team and the focus is to constantly synchronise all elements of our ground handling teams to promote and ensure safe and secure service. The challenge is to ensure that this is done within the ramp microcosm that involves other parties, ATC from NAMA, Marshaller from FAAN, fueler etc.
“ It is worthy of note that NCAA and FAAN have worked on a framework to drive this. It is important that this is continuously worked on and improved to concretise and establish a lasting ramp safety culture that cuts across all parties.
On the challenge of limited infrastructure, Mrs. Fagbemi said the increase in air traffic especially with respect to cargo is putting material pressure on the apron especially at Cargo Ramp at MMIA and called on FAAN to face this.
She said,”FAAN needs to face this head on to enable Nigeria actualise the full potential of air cargo. NAHCO’s facilities have evolved from the old facilities transferred from FAAN. Many of these require upgrade, refurbishment and replanning. Getting approval for these is most times very challenging.
“With the inflation, this becoming more expensive to achieve. We require more space to make our facilities full automated, have simple but effective security systems, be environmentally friendly etc. We are unable to achieve this effectively. We have approached FAAN for assistance in this regard and also for the opportunity to operate those being built by FAAN.
“This will no doubt be of immense benefit and value to shippers, consignees, agents, the agents, the airlines, the airport, the aviation industry and the nation as a whole. A visit to any cargo terminal outside these climes will show case the reasons why.”
On technology, Fagbemi said that like passengers demand for better travel experience, cargo customers demand same and there is a push for more automation of cargo warehousing system stressing that IATA is at the forefront of an e cargo system. Today e-manifest has come to stay
She said,” Safety, prevention of aircraft damage, sustainability and the drive to become green are driving changes in the design and operations of Ground Support Equipment (GSE) and operations. This calls for more investment in these new equipment and systems.