Airports in the 21st century, are like the ports and railway junctions of the 19th and 20th century — critical drivers of economic growth. As individuals, we look to the glamour and prestige associated with passenger air travel, while tending to overlook the air cargo requirements of commerce and industry which is drives the economic engine of Bangalore.
Thanks to years of power deficiency, Bangalore’s economy is technology oriented. The IT industry is an addition to the long list of “high tech” industries calling Bangalore home. Telephony, electronics, machine tools, aeronautics, precision engineering, auto parts, garments, and floriculture industries, all of which produce goods, high in value, low in weight, and in many cases, perishable. All goods which are ideally suited to transport by air.
Globally, over 40% of goods by value are sent by air instead of surface transport. At Bangalore, which lacks a sea-port, it is more than 50%. Everyday, about Rs. 150 Crore (US$ 37 million) worth of goods transit Bangalore’s airport, and this is set to double as soon as additional capacity is made available.
We are entering the final countdown to the operational commencement of the much vaunted “dream airport”, Bengaluru International Airport (BIA), being promoted by BIAL consortium.
However, the dream is turning sour for much of Bangalore’s industry.
BIAL has appointed two companies to provide Air Cargo terminals at the new airport. One in Menzies-Bobba and the other is Air-India – Singapore Air Terminal Services (AI-SATS).
More than a month ago, representatives of BIAL, Menzies-Bobba, and AI-SATS, assured industry that air cargo operations were ready to go, and painted a rosy picture of comfort and state of the art handling.
These are pictures taken at the AI-SATS warehouse on the evening of May 22, 2008, just 2 days before the launch of the new airport. Clearly, there is a huge gap between claims and reality.
What is absolutely mind boggling, is that the Customs Authorities have given the “all clear” to this warehouse, and have issued the necessary permits and bonding permissions to commence operations!!!!!!
The warehouse is clearly not ready for operations, and you will observe, the complete lack of basic facilities, even safety and security, an absolute must for any bonded facility.
By all appearances, this warehouse will require about 1 month to complete. In that month, this warehouse has the potential to handle cargo of value greater than the total investment in the airport.
Losses or damages to precious cargo will result in magnified damages of over Rs. 5,000 Crore to Bangalore’s industry, and by extension it is Bangalore’s economy and residents who will suffer the losses, due the un-preparedness on the part of BIAL and its concessionaire(s), and the hasty, ill-advised, and wrongly motivated actions by the Customs Authorities.