Chennai’s Air Cargo Complex Success Story

AAI Focus

July 17, 2017

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Left: Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) at Chennai Cargo Terminal; Above: Elevated Transfer Vehicle (ETV) area at Chennai Airport; Below: Delicate handling of day old chick with care

Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) at Chennai Cargo Terminal

Chennai Airport has been managing their cargo department with efficiency and consistency. Here is a look at their Air Cargo Complex, its infrastructure and management techniques.

The Air Cargo Complex at the Chennai airport was established in 1978, when all regulatory and facilitating agencies were brought under one roof for faster processing/clearance of international cargo, to cater for air cargo movement in the southern region. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) functions as ground handling agency for airlines for handling or processing their cargo on ground and acts as custodian on behalf of customs import/export cargo under the Customs Act of 1962 at the cargo terminal.

The cargo complex spreads out over 20 acres consists of four divisions, namely, export, import, air courier and domestic cargo facilities. The complex has an exclusive cargo apron that can accommodate three widebodied aircraft with Unit Load Device (ULD) parking area and hydrant re-fuelling facility at the bay. The customs department has appointed AAI as the custodian at the cargo complex. The international import/export cargo of all the airlines under AAI’s custodianship is solely handled by AAI appointed GHA-M/s Bhadra International India Ltd (BIIL), however, M/s Air India handles the export cargo separately for the airlines handled by it.

At Chennai Airport, almost 34 major airlines are operating to various domestic and international destinations catering to the requirements of both passengers and cargo. There are almost 10 airlines that operate cargo freighters to various international destinations. On an average, Chennai Airport facilitates the operations of over 12,500 flights per month. This includes 3,200 international and 9,300 domestic flights. Apart from this, a number of business jets are also operated from this airport. Chennai Airport handles traffic of over 15 million passengers and over 350,000 metric tonnes of cargo a year.

The cargo profile at Chennai is very diverse and thus has ample scope for further growth of various industries. The exports mainly consist of leather goods, textile garments, engineering goods, auto parts and perishables. Similarly, imports largely consist of varieties of electronics, engineering goods, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and heavy machineries. The Air Cargo Complex functions on 24×7 basis for facilitating both export and import trade. Airport and customs’ authorities work in a well co-ordinated manner to facilitate the trade on Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) enabled IT platform for providing the services while airlines are provided 24×7 handling facilities. The complex also facilitates movement of goods on arrival to the Air Freight Station (AFS) in co-ordination with other service providers.

Cargo handled by Chennai Airport (Table 1)

Cargo handled by Chennai Airport (Table 1)

State-of-the-Art Infrastructure

In 2001, Chennai Airport became the first international airport in the country to receive ISO 9001-2000 certification. In 2008, the AAI started major modernisation of the airport with Phase III and IV of the new integrated cargo complex with storage and cargo processing facility. Both export and import terminals are equipped with mechanised cargo handling systems such as Elevated Transfer Vehicle (ETV) and Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS). The ETV has 174 main deck storage slots; whereas ASRS has 8,000 storage bins (each bin has a capacity to store 1.3 to 1.5 tonnes of cargo in it). The new facilities also includes multiple temperature-controlled cold storages for perishable cargo, with three chambers at 0°C to 12°C covering a total area of 445 square metres . There are three fully secured strong rooms for storage and processing of high value cargo, such as gems, jewellery, gold and silver, both in export and import together. The new facility also has dedicated exclusive storage locations for handling dangerous and hazardous cargo.

As regards the safety and security of the facility, the cargo terminal has installed adequate numbers of latest X-Ray machines (dual-image), electronic weighing scales and Explosive Trace Detectors (ETDs). There is also a state-of-the-art facility known as Centre for Perishable Cargo (CPC) with 40 metric tonne capacity. The existing capacity of the Air Cargo Complex is expected to meet the requirement beyond 2020-21. The Phase-III of the Air Cargo Complex has been upgraded, at a cost of INR 1.47 billion. The new building is being used exclusively for import activities.

Tonnage Profile

Chennai Airport is the third busiest airport in the country in terms of cargo handled. It has a capacity to handle 1,102,373 metric tonne of cargo every year. However, what it actually handled for the past five years is tabulated in Table 1.

Launch of Domestic Cargo Facility & International Courier Facility

The Common User Domestic Cargo (CUDC) terminal became functional in October, 2015 at Chennai. The domestic cargo is growing at a much faster rate and the facility is being expanded to handle more volumes of cargo. Earlier, the focus was just on imports and exports but AAI has started domestic air cargo operations as well. Currently, small electronic items, light engineering goods and textiles have emerged as some of our major commodities for domestic cargo. Chennai being an automobile manufacturing hub is also home to a large number of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and AAI is in the process to tap into the automobile segment. Currently, the focus area is pharmaceutical products, which requires handling of goods in a temperature-controlled environment.

Disposal of Un-unclaimed/ Un-delivered Import Cargo

In addition to the responsibility of import/ export cargo management, the responsibility of disposing all kinds of un-claimed/undelivered cargo also exclusively lies with AAI. This inter alia requires preparation of the list of such items with complete details of the consignment, serving of final notice to the consignees, fixing-up reserve price, display of the goods being e-auctioned, appointment of government approved valuers and e-auctioneer, calling of bids for the lots on a fixed date/time, acceptance of the bids, filing of a consolidated bill of entry (buyer-wise) for payment of customs duty and sharing of sale proceeds as per the provision of Section 150 of Customs Act, 1962, besides delivery of the sold lots to the successful bidders. The conducting of e-auctions for the disposal of un-claimed/undelivered general import cargo is a regular feature at Chennai Airport.

While AAI has been a pioneer in conducting disposal of goods, it has also taken the initiative to get destruction of un-claimed/un-delivered hazardous waste materials lying at Chennai Airport in the recent past, which have been a potential threat to the environment, public property and human life(s) at its premises. The Cargo Department at Chennai Airport in close co-ordination with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TPCB) arranged to dispose off more than 100 metric tonnes of hazardous waste materials lying at the airport, which led to creation of space for fresh cargo and optimum utilisation of the space. These hazardous waste materials contained expired drugs/medicines and chemicals, food-stuff unfit for human beings along with other hazardous waste that have lost their potency and out-lived their shelf-life. The disposal of such hazardous materials was ensured in an eco-friendly manner.

Thus, AAI continues to show its leadership in cargo operations by creating state-of-the-art infrastructure and cargo handling processes followed in tandem with customs directives. In fact, AAI Cargo team has been continuously innovating cargo systems and processes to meet users/trade aspirations. With the advent of AAI Cargo Logistics and Allied Services Company Limited (AAICLAS), Chennai Airport is set to become the leading air cargo and a major transhipment hub in the southern region.

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