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Qantas Freight makes progress on cargo pileup

Delays at some Australian airport facilities still expected to last more than a week

A Qantas Freight Boeing 767 cargo jet is parked at the company’s cargo facility at Sydney airport. (Photo: Flickr/Simon_sees CC By 2.0)

Qantas Freight said Monday it made substantial progress over the weekend clearing a huge backlog of freight from its Australian airport facilities, a problem created when a transition to a new IT system didn’t go smoothly. However, it estimated that normal operations won’t be fully restored at all locations until Oct. 21.

The cargo division of Qantas Airways said in a customer notice that it was able in recent days to deliver a large number of single, shipper-loaded containers that don’t require breakdown and sorting. Shared unit load devices, which contain contents from multiple shippers, are taking longer to process.

The company said it is on track to clear the pile of inbound containers in Brisbane by Wednesday. Volumes at the Melbourne and Sydney airports are considerably higher and will take until late next week to clear. More space is becoming available within the Qantas cargo terminals for sorting and staging as customers collect large shipments.

Qantas’ terminal 3 in Sydney has now cleared more than 70% of intact, customer-controlled containers, the airline said. Terminal 1 continues to process bulk shipments and is expected to meet the target of 100% clearance by Oct. 19.

The Melbourne facility had a backlog prior to the IT meltdown that began on Sept. 24 and therefore won’t be fully cleared out until Oct. 21.

“Terminal teams are continuing to work around the clock to process the freight backlog. At the same time, we’re trying to keep more recent freight arrivals moving through our terminals without delay,” Qantas Freight said.

The Freight & Trade Alliance said in a memo that some members are still experiencing difficulty collecting full container loads at Sydney’s Terminal 1. Freight forwarders have expressed exasperation with delays retrieving freight, which often last for days, and the lack of visibility into where shipments are located in the Qantas system. They are also experiencing extra costs associated with truckers spending time in queues, as well as extra administrative work and having to rebook shipments in the Qantas system.

The carrier said it continues to increase handling staff and hire outside help in key locations, add night shifts, deploy technical support in major terminals, and prioritize pharmaceutical and perishable shipments in its effort to speed up cargo retrieval and tendering.

Support staff are reducing the level of manual document processing as system confidence returns and data from the legacy system is reconciled with the new system to enable invoicing, according to Qantas. It also has corrected many glitches in the IT system.

Qantas declared progress on export processing in Brisbane and Sydney, where operations have returned to normal as of Tuesday with all single-customer containers flown or booked to travel. In Melbourne, the cargo team expects to clear the remaining exports and transhipment pallets, mostly bound for the U.S., in the coming days. Loose freight is being processed by commodity type, with priority given to urgent shipments.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In December 2022, he was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]