A new air cargo carrier is set to commence regular flights into Africa from Durban’s Dube TradePort, home to King Shaka International Airport, in February this year.
Khuphuka Kings Airways, a new local airline owned by Khuphuka Investments Holdings, has secured scheduled flights between Durban and Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with stop-overs at Ndola, Zambia.
The airline is poised to utilise three cargo aircraft, including two ILyushin 76 and one Antonov- AN 12 cargo planes. Although Khuphuka Kings Airways will initially commence operations in the cargo field, plans are in place to also introduce passenger aircraft to the route and to later expand into other parts of Africa.
The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) airline industry forecast for the period 2013-2017 indicates that Africa is the fastest growing region in the world in terms of airfreight volumes and Dube TradePort Corporation’s own cargo strategy is aligned to this forecast.
Commenting, Dube TradePort Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Ms Saxen van Coller, said: “We are working to build rapid cargo growth and aim to significantly increase direct air services to and from King Shaka International Airport, transforming KwaZulu-Natal into South Africa’s primary alternative gateway.”
She added: “In broad terms, our cargo strategy is to target routes in East, Central and West Africa before looking to expand globally, inclusive of the Far East, North America and Europe. The launch of this new route will most certainly serve to increase connectivity between Durban and Central Africa, assisting in the generation of economic efficiencies for our local business community.”
Khuphuka Kings Airways Chairman, Dr Musa Mdluli, said of his company’s entry into South Africa’s airfreight transport industry: “We are hugely excited by the overwhelming response we have received from all our stakeholders who have become aware of our airline. Since initially pitching the idea, we have been inundated with requests from major freight forwarders and their clients who are eager to join us in making a success of this new venture.”
KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu, said of the industry development: “The public sector’s investment in appropriate infrastructure at Dube TradePort, surrounding King Shaka International Airport, has proven to be a critical component in the economic development of KwaZulu-Natal. Such development has created wonderful opportunities for local investment to be channeled into viable projects, such as Khuphuka Kings Airways.”
He added: “This investment will undoubtedly have a positive knock-on effect in terms of other enterprises within the Province, providing them with unprecedented access to growing numbers of countries on the continent. Additionally, we have been working hard to position KwaZulu-Natal as the official gateway to Africa, creating an appetite for those wanting to invest in the continent. With the launch of Khuphuka Kings Airways and the expansion of connectivity between Durban and the rest of Africa, there is growing interest by potential investors looking to take up such opportunities.”
It is estimated that no fewer than 85% of KwaZulu-Natal-based companies with goods destined for other parts of Africa currently deliver their airfreight to Johannesburg by road in order to utilise flights from OR Tambo International Airport. With the introduction of new scheduled flights from Durban into various parts of Africa, local companies will be in a position to reduce transport costs and time by negating the need for the road-freight leg.
Reacting to the new airline’s introduction, Dube TradePort Corporation’s Chairperson, Dr Bridgette Gasa, said: “We are proud to be involved with a local organisation which is investing in an airline to service Africa. On the back of poor road and rail networks linking major African cities, air transport is essential for intra-African business. Driving this integration among African countries will continue to be critical in terms of creating an open environment for business; an environment which allows goods and people to transcend borders more freely.”
The Antonov- AN 12, with a carrying capacity of 20 tonnes, will assist in supplementing loads on the route, while the two ILyushin 76 planes, also geared to fly the route, each have a carrying capacity of 46 tonnes. This compares most favourably with a Boeing 777, which has a 30 tonne capacity. The ILyushin 76 aircraft enjoy the added benefit of having an incredible range, giving them the ability to fly anywhere in the world from Durban, ensuring Khuphuka Kings Airways’ capacity to airlift cargo to any destination in the world.
Mr Petko Atanassov, Dube TradePort Corporation’s Senior Manger: Cargo Development, Operations and Security, indicated that Dube TradePort Corporation’s comprehensive Part 108-accredited Cargo Terminal was designed and is operated with air cargo security specifically in mind. “The facility boasts an impressive 0% cargo loss or pilferage record dating back to its inception in 2010. Purpose-built, Dube Cargo Terminal has the capability to process any category of cargo and was recently required to process a 55 tonne single unit acid cooler. In addition, it is the only facility of its kind in South Africa where customs services are fully integrated into the terminal’s operations, providing a one-stop, all-hours regulatory service in the interests of extremely rapid airside to landside turn-around times.”
He also maintained that growth in cargo due to efficiencies at Dube Cargo Terminal “is best evidenced” by the sharp increase in international brands landing in Durban.
“By way of example, a Spanish retail giant has a policy that requires garments to be on store shelves 48 hours after leaving production. This is quite possible in Durban, with Dube Cargo Terminal receiving the company’s shipment, processing it through customs and having it ready for collection in just 11 hours,” he said.