How lack of access to cheap long-term funds is affecting aviation business- NAHCO

Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) has identified lack of access to cheap long-term funds needed for purchase and replacement of ageing equipment as part of needs of players in the cargo handling subsector.
The company said operators in the cargo handling segment of the industry would have experienced accelerated growth and expansion if the government had addressed needs of the industry,
Besides, the company said operators in the value chain need to enjoy duty waivers granted to scheduled carriers to enable them actualise their full potential and drive further contributions to the air transport sector.
Group Managing Director, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), Mrs Olatokunbo Fagbemi made this an interview in Lagos.
According to her, the ground handling sub sector is grappling with myriads of challenges not limited to poor airport facilities, lack of funding and multiple taxation.
She said: “In resolving our operational challenges, we need to spell out in clear terms what constitutes challenges.These include poor infrastructure, lack of low interest capital, difficulty in ease of doing business and lack of synergy among stakeholders we need the Ministry of Aviation and the regulator to assist us in this regard.
“In summary, as a ground handler, one of our major challenges is being able to provide adequate infrastructure, facilities, and equipment to service our customers due the capital-intensive nature of the aviation business. This has been greatly hindered by the lack of access to cheap long-term funds which can be used to purchase and replace aging equipment as well as improve our infrastructure.
“Just like the other critical industries where government has directly supported them through various incentives, Ground handlers and not just the airlines should be able to access these special loans to be able to run our business, as everyone is aware the aviation industry is a capital-intensive industry that requires a lot on investments in equipment, spares, infrastructure, and training. The cost of purchase and maintenance of ground support equipment is astronomical and in foreign currency.
In the area of airport infrastructure, Fagbemi said NAHCO require support from FAAN especially in the provision and maintenance of key infrastructure within the airports such as scanning machines, electricity, security , which hinder operational activities.
She said,”Having to provide for some of these facilities or take on some of these responsibilities puts additional pressure on our already dwindling revenue. ”
Fagbemi further explained that though safety is NAHCO’s primary core value and with increases in ramp operations, complexity in ground equipment, traffic control systems, and diversity of service providers on the ramp, reducing ground handling incidents remains a constant battle
She said,” Overcoming this challenge has led to a revamp of our team and the focus is to constantly synchronize all elements of our ground handling teams to promote and ensure safe and secure service. The challenge is to ensure that this is done within the ramp microcosm that involves other parties, Air Traffic Controllers from Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) , marshaller from Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and fuel suppliers.
” It is worthy of note that the NCAA and FAAN have worked on a framework to drive this. It is important that this is continuously worked on and improved to concretize and establish a lasting ramp safety culture that cuts across all parties.
On the challenge of limited infrastructure, Mrs. Fagbemi said the increase in air traffic especially with respect to cargo is putting material pressure on the apron especially at Cargo Ramp at MMIA and called on FAAN to face the challenge.
She said,”FAAN needs to face this head on to enable Nigeria actualize the full potential of air cargo. NAHCO’s facilities have evolved from the old facilities transferred from FAAN. Many of these require upgrade, refurbishment and re planning. Getting approval for these is most times very challenging.
“With the inflation, this is becoming more expensive to achieve. We require more space to make our facilities fully automated, have simple but effective security systems, be environmentally friendly . We are unable to achieve this effectively. We have approached FAAN for assistance in this regard and also for the opportunity to operate those being built by FAAN.
“This will no doubt be of immense benefit and value to shippers, consignees, agents, the agents, the airlines, the airport, the aviation industry and the nation as a whole. A visit to any cargo terminal outside these climes will showcase the reasons .”
On technology, Fagbemi said that like passengers demand for better travel experience, cargo customers demand the same and there is a push for more automation of the cargo warehousing system stressing that IATA is at the forefront of an e- cargo system. Today e-manifest has come to stay.
She said,” Safety, prevention of aircraft damage, sustainability and the drive to become green are driving changes in the design and operations of Ground Support Equipment (GSE) and operations. This calls for more investment in these new equipment and systems. ”

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