Nicole – an uninvited guest

Optimism prevailed at Tiaca ACF 2022, despite dark clouds in the air cargo skies. Tiaca once again held its Air Cargo Forum recently – four years after the last edition of the world air cargo association’s ACF in Toronto (see pages 18-19 of ITJ 45-46 / 2018). The fact that more exhibitors and visitors came to Miami Beach wasn’t so much due to the supposedly attractive weather, but reflected the mood of optimism in the industry. Not everything was rosy in the Miami Art Deco District, however.

Four years isn’t only a long time between football World Cups. Though Italy didn't take part part in the World Cup in 2018, it won the following European Championship – which took place a year later than planned on account of the outbreak of Covid-19, which changed so many things. Glyn Hughes, for example, who has moved from Iata to Tiaca in the interim, has also changed a little, as he remarked in his usual laconic way at the opening of the Air Cargo Forum on 8 November. He now has even less hair.

Tiaca’s director general was greatly cheered, however, by the number of participants attending – more than 3,800. At the same time a visit from an uninvited guest loomed, as hurricane ‘Nicole’ was brewing over the Bahamas. 36 hours later it made landfall on the Florida coast a few kilometres north of Miami.

Hughes commented on it by pointing out that the Miami Beach Convention Center, which benefited from a USD 620 million modernisation programme between 2015 and 2018, was “the safest building in all of South Florida.”

Much of the spirit of optimism was evident inside the hall (which will also host the Art Basel Miami Beach exhibition early in December, by the way), which covered twice the space of Toronto 2018. With 220 exhibitors in eleven areas the fair presented “international partners for intermodal supply chains,” according to a concept created with Messe München.

The top three nations amongst the exhibitors were fielded by Germany (47), Canada (15), and Italy and Great Britain (eleven each). There may be some doubt about whether the German ports, united in one single national pavilion, really felt at home among the air carriers.

Some long-standing Tiaca members commented critically that participating in the ACF, which will permanently be held in Miami Beach from now on, will require long journeys and high investment for most visitors and exhibitors, especially those hailing from Europe.

Tiaca chairman Steven Polmans countered this by saying that holding the event in a different place every two years represents a tremendous effort for Tiaca. Besides, the body has also set up a system of local meetings. Amsterdam hosted a regional symposium in June, and similar events are scheduled for 2023 in Delhi (March) and Nairobi (June). Tiaca’s executive summit, in turn (6–8 November) will see the association return to the old haunt of its chairman Polmans, the former cargo chief of Brussels airport.

Of course, the ACF again hosted a series of high-profile panel discussions and in-depth presentations. In his industry outlook Sander Schuringa of Seabury Cargo, for example, spoke of “dark clouds” but also “plenty of room for optimism”. Yields may have declined globally recently, it’s true, but they’re still well above pre-pandemic levels, he reminded us. The trans-Atlantic corridor is also developing well.

There is still a lack of capacity between Europe and Asia, and the trade route has also been heavily impaired since 24 February, with the Ukraine war likely to keep global supply chains busy for quite some time to come.

There was also reason to celebrate for the winners of this year’s Sustainability Awards. In the ‘corporate’ category Edmonton Airport was recognised for its holistic ‘Airport City Sustainability Campus’ approach.

Among the three finalists in the category ‘start-up / small business’, Cargo AI impressed the audience most with its ‘Cargo2Zero’ scheme. The award for its portfolio of solutions for freight forwarders, which aims to decarbonise activities in the air cargo industry through the use of a CO2 efficiency score, earned the Singapore-based IT enterprise a prize of USD 10,000.