空輸 – Air cargo in Japanese

With more than 37 million inhabitants, the urban agglomeration of Tokyo is the largest in the world. Reason enough for Lufthansa Cargo to operate two stations there simultaneously, and for both teams a new era has begun thanks to the cooperation with ANA.

As the MD-11F from Frankfurt comes to a halt at its position, an icy wind sweeps drizzle across the apron. Nothing unusual for a Tokyo evening in late February – but nevertheless unpleasant. The members of the Handling Crew, however, are not put off their stride in the least and unload the freighter as usual. Illuminated by the blaze of an enormous floodlight, along with pallets and containers, a medium-sized car is pulled out of the main deck of the machine. It takes less than two hours for the MD-11F to be emptied and reloaded, perhaps with notebooks from a famous Japanese manufacturer. Departure to Frankfurt: 21:40.

“The machine was fully loaded when it landed and is also fully booked on the return flight,” says Tomohiro Oikawa. As Manager, he is responsible for both Lufthansa Cargo stations in the Japanese capital, Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Tokyo Haneda (HND). Last year, the freight subsidiary of Lufthansa imported shipments of more than 25,000 tonnes to Narita and over 1,000 additional tonnes to Haneda. “The export tonnage was more or less the same.”

This year, Oikawa’s workload, and that of his team of eight at both stations, could turn out to be somewhat higher. After all, the new cooperation with All Nippon Airways (ANA) Cargo is heralding a new era for Lufthansa Cargo staff in Tokyo. “It is of huge benefit to Six times a week a Lufthansa Cargo MD-11 freighter stops in Narita. At Haneda, the freight carrier only handles belly cargo Tomohiro Oikawa, Station manager for both Lufthansa Cargo stations in the Japanese capital customers that Lufthansa Cargo is now also selling shipments on ANA passenger flights, departing from Narita and Haneda.” Haneda is just 15 kilometres south of the centre of the Japanese capital. However, if you have to head to Narita from there on the train, the ride can take up to an hour. Narita International Airport is more than 65 kilometres east of the centre. For many passengers, this location is not ideal, yet it is well suited to logistics. Here, outside the city, confined spaces and heavy traffic do not dominate as in central Tokyo. “Many of the large forwarders that we collaborate with have their logistics centres here,” says Oikawa, who has worked with Lufthansa since 1991, and has been Station Manager since 2006. In 2013, Narita’s cargo handling altogether totalled around two million tonnes – placing it at number ten in global rankings of cargo airports.

Lufthansa Cargo flies from Frankfurt to Narita six times a week with an MD-11 freighter. In addition to this, passenger jets carry cargo in their bellies: an Airbus 340 from Frankfurt daily and a Boeing 777 of Austrian Airlines from Vienna six times a week. At Haneda, the freight carrier only handles belly cargo. An Airbus 340 from Munich and a Boeing 747 from Frankfurt land here every day. Indeed, new partner ANA also operates a Boeing 787 every day between Narita and Dusseldorf as well as numerous non-stop connections from Haneda: to Frankfurt and Munich, but also to London or Paris. Whether it is with Lufthansa or ANA, when it comes to imports, automotive components, pharmaceutical products and medical devices play a decisive role. “We also bring in a huge amount of flowers from South America and Africa,” comments Oikawa. In the other direction, the automotive and pharmaceutical industries are key, in addition to IT and semiconductors.

“Our teams in Narita and Haneda work closely together,” explains the Station Manager. As an example, pallets for export are often built in Narita and shipped by truck to Haneda when a more convenient connection is available there. “Of course we live by the ‘networking the world’ motto here,” says Oikawa and chuckles. “But for us, networking starts right here on the spot.”