London's Heathrow airport is one of the largest and busiest airports in Europe, with over 77 million passengers commuting through it every year. The cargo load traffic has been burgeoning as well, with continuous growth recorded over the last 15 months.
The airport has seen a 20% year-over-year growth in trans-shipments, with more than 150,000 metric tons of cargo being shipped at the airport just during October.
But the growth in cargo volumes has been synonymous with severe congestion across the region, as police frequently cordon off cargo areas due to excessively occurring bottlenecks. The Heathrow airport is facing a dire situation due to queues, which is increasing waiting times and thus delaying an already slow-moving air freight operation.
Sources suggest the airport does not owe its increase in traffic only to regular volume growth, but also to the change created by e-commerce in global trade. This warrants for a lot more such ‘peaks’ in traffic, since the demand for e-commerce is ubiquitously increasing across the world.
Heathrow is situated 14 miles west of Central London, and thus the traffic could potentially affect workings of the city in the future. In light of this, the airport is looking at ways to reduce traffic around the area by introducing a new load consolidation app, which could play a part in reducing the impact of airport-related traffic on the city.
There are around 12,500 vehicle movements every day in the area surrounding Heathrow - of which 75% of them are cargo and mail related. Without any intervention on the traffic explosion, there is a forecast of a 30% increase in freight-related traffic by 2030 - making it prudent to disrupt the process through technology.
The airport is working with Nallian, a cloud-based value chain collaboration platform to create Heathrow CargoCloud. The application is designed to work with shippers, trucking companies, and freight forwarders. The idea is not just to reduce traffic as the airport scales up in size, but also to mitigate emissions on the roads surrounding the airport’s vicinity.
“Operating a cleaner, leaner and more efficient freight operation is an essential part of delivering on our ambition to be the best airport in Europe for cargo,” says Nick Platts, Head of Cargo at Heathrow.
“CargoCloud offers benefits to the whole industry. For our cargo partners it allows them to reduce their costs, our local communities will experience less congestion and improved air quality, and Heathrow will build on its strength as an airport of choice for cargo.”
Though Heathrow is the largest European freight airport by value, it does not own the cargo facilities, equipment, or vehicles that are being used for the operations. The work is done by a community of cargo companies, which is the focus for Heathrow CargoCloud.
The tool primarily helps companies improve the efficiency of their freight cargo by sourcing loads for spare capacity that might occur in certain shipments. When companies partner with the initiative, the system will take in information on origin and destination, time and date of delivery, load product information and most importantly, the available capacity on the vehicle.
Based on the input parameters, CargoCloud analyzes the options available and matches the spare capacity with a load that is optimized for the freight. Such practices would reduce the number of cargo-related vehicles on the road, reduce transportation costs for freight forwarders and also reduce emission costs.
Apart from this, the airport is improving logistics processes through other time-tested ways to ease traffic pressure during peak hours. Heathrow is looking to work with Transport for London (TfL) to re-time the shuttling of cargo that is not time critical to outside high-density traffic periods. It also plans to levy congestion charges to force drivers to rethink their shuttling strategies and progress towards a cleaner fleet with fewer vehicle movements.
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