Western Cape Air Cargo Conference Explores Future Amidst Seaport Challenges

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Western Cape Air Cargo Conference Explores Future Amidst Seaport Challenges
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Western Cape Air Cargo Conference Explores Future Amidst Seaport Challenges
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22 March 2024

On Tuesday, March 19, 2024, the Cape Town Air Access team, powered by Wesgro, hosted the second annual Western Cape Air Cargo Conference, bringing together industry and business leaders, airlines, government representatives, and key stakeholders in the air cargo value chain to explore the future of air cargo in Cape Town and the Western Cape.

The gathering occurred amidst the ongoing challenges at South Africa’s seaports, notably affecting the country's imports and exports, particularly in the agriculture sector due to disruptions in timely exports of perishable goods. Consequently, there has been a notable uptick in demand for air cargo transportation.

Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro, opened the conference by highlighting a 14% year-on-year increase in air cargo volumes at Cape Town International Airport in 2023. In the last quarter of 2023, this growth surged to 42%, partly because of challenges faced at the Port of Cape Town. Stander emphasised that the conference presented an opportunity to shift air cargo business to the Western Cape, boost exports, and raise awareness of the region's air cargo offerings.

Alderman James Vos, Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, addressed the imperative for the best possible systems, structures and programmes to be put in place to boost exports and ultimately, job creation and economic growth.

Specifically noting the importance of innovative initiatives such as Cape Town Air Access, powered by Wesgro, and the Cape Trade Portal, Alderman Vos, highlighted these initiatives as some of the great contributors for ensuring that travel and trade in Cape Town and Western Cape literally and figuratively, takes flight.

Ilse van Schalkwyk, Chief Director of Economic Sector Support at the Western Cape Government, highlighted a range of initiatives underpinned by the Growth for Jobs (G4J) Strategy to grow the Western Cape economy by 4% and 6% per year, with the potential to create over 600,000 jobs.

In his keynote address, Kashif Khalid, Regional Director for Operations Safety and Security at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), underlined the pivotal role of e-commerce and digitalisation in propelling air cargo growth. He highlighted the rising global demand for fresh and perishable goods, particularly significant for the Western Cape, and discussed how e-commerce was driving this surge. Khalid also discussed the necessity for the air cargo industry to modernise its practices, citing the prevalent reliance on paper-based processes.

Khangi Khoza, CEO of Swissport SA, a provider of airport ground services and cargo handling, elaborated on the broader air cargo infrastructure in South Africa and the targeted improvements required to facilitate seamless goods movement.

The conference also featured a panel discussion on the future of air cargo transportation in the Western Cape, with panellists including Terence Delomoney, Group Executive Airport Operations Management at ACSA; Adele Klingenberg, Chief Director for Cape Winelands Airport; and Ilse van Schalkwyk. Key themes emerging from the discussion included sustainability, investment in airport facilities and cargo terminals, strategies to drive air cargo transportation growth in support of economic development, and the vital role of public-private collaboration.