The long-standing practice under which ULDs are released off-airport for build-up or breakdown works effectively from a physical perspective. But in the absence of any kind of penalty for overdue return of the equipment to its rightful owner, airlines suffer significant operational disruption and lost efficiency as a result of ULD shortages.
While in the short term this situation may seem to benefit shippers, it often results in widespread ULD shortages, which will impact every aspect of air cargo operations. These shortages create inefficiencies for both airlines and their customers.
Owners of ULD need unrestricted access to their assets. They may choose to issue these assets to third parties, but this does not mean they relinquish all rights to have the assets back for their further use. Certainly, demurrage is a blunt tool, but its widespread use across much of the global logistics chains is evidence of its effectiveness in controlling excess detention of freight assets.
The absence of demurrage charges for ULD is an outlier in the wider transport and logistics industry. No other comparable industry allows their freight equipment to be taken by third parties without the application of a demurrage charge for late return. It is in the interests of all parties to rectify the situation as increased utilization may very well result in greater efficiency and lower cost for shipping.
As a first step ULD CARE is looking to the relevant industry associations to support demurrage in off-airport transfers. The associations need to make it clear that the charging of demurrage for ULD equipment is as justifiable for air cargo as it is for any other freight equipment assets, such as shipping containers and rail cars.
With decades of experience in running a demurrage system (IULDUG) for its member airlines, combined with its extensive subject matter knowhow, ULD CARE can present this document with a great deal of confidence.
At the same time ULD CARE seeks the active engagement of the three major industry trade associations to support the acceptance of the practice of demurrage across the entire air cargo industry, and will seek to actively engage with these bodies to achieve this end.
The time is past for off airport ULD operations to be an exception within global logistics. ULD are simply too important to the fast and efficient movement of goods around the world for the current practise to continue. Airlines need to recover control of their ULD assets.