Is air cargo industry vulnerable to cyberattacks?

Geopolitical instability and technological vulnerabilities make safeguarding cargo operations a priority, says Vandana Singh, Director Global Corporate Key Account Management, ISC and Far East Saudia Cargo. Regulations for new technology and safe operations with autonomous systems are a must, she adds.

Ritika Arora Bhola

How was 2023 for Saudia Cargo’s operations in India.Tell us about the developments that took place last year?

2023 was a fantastic year for Saudia Cargo in terms of commercial operations; we developed exponentially during the year and learned a lot from the industry. Saudia Cargo has a considerable presence in India and the Middle East.

We provide efficient air cargo services to various Indian cities. Our fleet of freighter aircraft ensures timely transportation of goods, supporting trade and commerce. The logistics industry in India is benefiting from technological advancements, and infrastructure capex, which is boosting the business exceptionally well. Additionally, given the growth in e-commerce sector, Saudia Cargo plays a significant role in transporting online orders. Their efficient logistics network supports the growing demand for e-commerce shipments.

How are Saudia’s freighter operations in India? What are the destinations covered and, which cities are the key hubs?

Saudia Cargo operates regular freight routes connecting Indian cities to destinations across Asia, Europe, Africa, and the United States of America. These routes enable seamless movements of goods, ranging from perishables to industrial equipment. Also, we collaborate with the Indian customs authorities in a bid to ensure smooth clearance processes. Proper documentation and compliance with regulations are essential for hassle-free cargo handling.

Saudia Cargo serves several key Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bengaluru, and Kochi. These cities act as vital hubs for cargo movement, facilitating trade links between India and the rest of the world.

Tell us about the variety of cargo moved to and from these countries?

Regular cargo flights are offered by Saudia Cargo between Indian cities and in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the USA. The smooth transportation of commodities, including pharmaceuticals, perishable products, e-commerce, industrial equipment and fashion is moved frequently through these routes.

Today, the world wants to ship to India, then how do you look at the trade ties between India and KSA? Any investment plans?

The trade relations between India and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are essential for us and the business industry. Indo-KSA bilateral trade reached US$27.48 billion, with the Kingdom’s exports to India standing at US$22.06 billion and India’s exports at US$5.41 billion. The trade ties play a crucial role in fostering economic cooperation between the two nations. The future looks promising, and we have numerous plans, which we cannot disclose yet.

What are the crucial pain points for air cargo stakeholders today?

The cargo business has a few difficulties that have influenced stakeholders throughout the world. As the industry is becoming increasingly digitalized, the risk of cyber-attacks continues to grow. Geopolitical instability and technological vulnerabilities make safeguarding cargo operations a priority. In fact, many industry leaders express concern about potential cyberattacks. However, establishing clear regulations for new technologies and safe operations with autonomous systems is quite a task. Though, I am certain that the sector will adjust to these changes and continue to develop shortly.

Do you reckon global air cargo will recover in the coming months?

The future of the air cargo industry holds promise and cautious optimism. In 2024, the global air cargo industry might herald the beginning of a new economic growth cycle. Automation and digitization continue to accelerate logistics industry growth. Technologies such as AI, ML, Blockchain, and IoT simplify operations, optimise resources, and enhance efficiency. To sum up, the industry is poised for growth, driven by technological advancements, policy reforms, and resilience.

Do you see the cargo volumes and yields going up for Saudia Cargo amidst global recession and slowdown?

Amidst the global recession and slowdown, the industry faces several challenges. Industry-wide CTKs were on a decline for 11 consecutive months as from January 2023, falling by 14.9 per cent YOY. This contraction in demand is reflected in a decrease of 11 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels. The international CTKs declined slightly faster than overall cargo traffic, registering a 16.2 per cent year over year contraction. However, things are slowly getting back to normal, and I am sure 2024 will be a great year for us.

Could you tell us about the cargo throughput in the past few years? Any strategies adopted to increase the global share?

Over the past few years, India’s cargo throughput has witnessed significant growth. Recently, the container port throughput reached an all-time high of 19,937,138 TEUs (20 feet equivalent units), reflecting the total number of containers handled at Indian ports during that period. In 2023, Indian ports managed over 1.3 billion metric tonnes of cargo, underscoring the vital role of efficient port operations in trade, export-import activities, and economic development. To enhance global market share, we employ a multifaceted approach. Innovation remains a cornerstone—leveraging cutting-edge technology, and refining production methods. Fostering ‘accessibility’ ensures inclusivity and widens the customer base. By combining these strategies, we thrive on the global stage.