Quality service in air cargo operations

by Isabella Lee

Nelson Lee, general manager, planning and services Asia Airfreight Terminal
Photo: Johnson Poon

New terminal will increase capacity and the need for experienced staff

The 700-strong team, including those of sub-contractors at Asia Airfreight Terminal (AAT) is right at the centre of one of the fastest-growing industries in Hong Kong and, with demand for cargo management professionals set to rise, it will be offering new employment opportunities in the near future.

Located at Hong Kong International Airport, which is recognised as Asia's premier air traffic hub, AAT already handles cargo for many leading airlines whose services span the globe. "To serve our customers, we offer a comprehensive range of quality services, which include everything from physical cargo handling to documentation processing," explains Nelson Lee, AAT's general manager of planning and services.

Mr Lee says that in order to meet customer requirements, the company has invested in sophisticated facilities and innovative technology to manage the flow of cargo and related data. The emphasis at all times is on fast and efficient movement through the terminal, providing the link between freight carriers and road transportation. Besides handling general cargo, AAT also has comprehensive specialised facilities for perishables, dangerous goods, livestock, chilled food and valuables.

"The e-cargo service is another advantage," Mr Lee notes. "Our advanced cargo management system provides a web-based platform with 24-hour access for registered users. That means they can get reliable, up-to-date information on cargo status, and the system is also connected to the government, airlines and other systems operated by the air cargo community.

Similarly, advanced technology is used in AAT's truck control system. With the new RFID application, it efficiently assigns incoming vehicles to the most appropriate truck docks, thus speeding up cargo transfers and making it possible to monitor service standards inside the terminal.

According to Mr Lee, increasing competition within the region, particularly from newer airfreight terminal operators in Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, has made it necessary to keep costs tightly under control and maintain handling fees at an attractive level. Responding to the challenge, the wholly owned subsidiary, Asia Airfreight Services Ltd (AAS) is offering a variety of value-added logistics support services, such as a complete cargo forwarding operation for consignments moving to or from places in the Pearl River Delta.

"Being accredited by International Air Transport Association (IATA), we can also provide extra services like conducting courses on dangerous goods for our both airline and agent customers," Mr Lee adds.

With the current terminal now close to its maximum operating capacity of 600,000 tonnes a year, the opening of a second terminal in December is ideally timed. This will take total annual capacity to over 1.5 million tonnes. The new four-storey facility has a total area of 130,000 square metres and has been designed to allow the highest level of ergonomic efficiency.

Truck docks are available on each floor for easy access and effective cargo conveyance.

"Consistent with our philosophy of embracing innovative technology, Terminal Two has one of the world's most advanced material handling systems, as well as the very latest IT," Mr Lee says. "This will enable us to deliver the best service in the logistics industry."

In preparation for opening, recruitment started a few months ago to give new staff adequate time to learn about AAT's service culture and to take the necessary training courses.

"In Hong Kong, there are many programmes organised by the Institute of Vocational Education, the Hong Kong Shippers' Council and other educational institutions," says Mr Lee. "Fortunately, there is a stable supply of people trained in the basics of airfreight logistics. However, we still put a lot of resources into giving our employees ongoing training and on-the-job coaching."

These include orientation and refresher courses covering everything from technical skills to aspects of customer service. "We believe that developing professionalism is the key to success," Mr Lee explains. He advises that candidates interested in joining AAT should have reasonable academic qualifications and relevant experience, as well as training in the logistics industry, especially if applying for a supervisory position. "Most importantly, though, we are seeking people who are dedicated to service excellence," Mr Lee says.


Taken from Career Times 10 November 2006
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