Aviation costs hurting cargo business

The management of Silverback Cargo Freighters, the only Rwanda registered cargo airline says high operational costs have partly slowed down cargo airline business at Kigali International Airport.

The management of Silverback Cargo Freighters, the only Rwanda registered cargo airline says high operational costs have partly slowed down cargo airline business at Kigali International Airport.

The company is lobbying government to reduce the fees if the country is to realise its dream of becoming an airline cargo hub in the Great Lakes region.

“I have talked to Civil Aviation Authority about the disadvantages of the prohibitive charges,” Silver Mupenzi said.

Whereas other regional airports charge less than $700 (about Frw381,500) for both landing and navigation, Kigali charges $1,350 about (about Frw735,750) at night and $900 (about Frw490,000).

“Nairobi Airport (Jomo Kenyata International) at times is congested but airlines still prefer using the airport.

This is partly because fuel costs, landing and navigation charges fees are cheap,” Mupenzi said in a recent interview with The New Times at the airport.|

 “We pay $8,000 (about Frw4,360,000) for handling 40 tonnes of cargo at Kigali Airport.

Whereas Entebbe Dar es Salaam and Nairobi charge only $2,000 dollars,” he said.

Silverback management is also crying foul as international passenger airlines continue flying the ‘few kilograms of cargo out of Kigali Airport.

But passenger planes are cashing on the low volume of volume cargo at Kigali Airport.

Records from the finance ministry indicate that high value horticulture products like; flowers fruits and vegetables for international markets remain significantly low— at around 2.5 tonnes per week.

Meaning Silverback Cargo Freighters’— two DC8 aircrafts— each with a capacity to carry 40 tonnes have no business at the Kanombe based airport.

To become competitive Mupenzi, is also seeking government’s support to negotiate for bilateral air service agreement with other countries where cargo business is booming.

This is inline with the Yamoussoukro decision of 1999. The Yamoussoukro decision became a legal instrument binding all African Union states that are signatories to the Abuja Treaty of 1994.

Rwanda like most African countries was quick to open up its airways to international flights thereby disadvantaging the local airlines.

Aviation experts fear that many African airlines will not survive the intense competition from foreign carriers, unless their countries protected them by providing incentives like negotiating air service agreements.

 “We want open skies.

Without Bilateral Air Service Agreements we cannot services in business.

At times we are booked to fly cargo from other countries but to get clearance in those countries it takes seven days,” Mapenzi said. Adding: “This is bad for airline business.”

But a top manager in Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority who preferred anonymity saying it is a policy matter.

It is only his minister who can be quoted said  the country still has ‘rigid, archaic laws aviation laws slowing the growth of airline business’.

He suggests that to attract more players and spur business in the aviation industry, the government has to repeal some of laws to suit the dynamics in the current aviation industry. Currently, CAA, as a regulatory body cannot adjust  charges at the airport.

The Cabinet does it.

The number of passengers using Kigali International Airport has been increasing steadily in the last four years, with 2005 registering a record 333,949 passengers.

Records in the CAA show that at least 146,239 passengers used the Kigali airport in the six years on average.

With the government investing in aviation infrastructure, it is hoped this will boost the country’s aviation industry.
“When the Karisimbi project is integrated with the radar system we are using, we shall have positive air traffic control including over flights, landing and take offs,” James Ben Kusemererwa, the CAA Publicist earlier said.

Rwanda has communication gargets positioned on Karisimbi summit at 4,507 metres above sea level— the communication navigation surveillance – air traffic management (CNS-ATM).

It is hoped these will enhance efficient, safe, secure and environmentally sustainable air navigation on the continent.
Big airlines which fly direct to Europe and America will be attracted in the region.

This will save time, handling costs and ware and tear of aircrafts that have been making stopovers at different airports to connect passengers to their destinations.

Plans are also in the pipeline to upgrade aerodromes at Butare, Gisenyi, Nemba and Ruhengeri, this will easy transport in the country and boost tourism.

When the new airport at Bugesera becomes operation, Rwanda may become a hub for airlines.