Trichy Airport opens dedicated terminal for import cargo
The Trichy International Airport now has a new import cargo processing unit, spread over 150 square metres, catering to three different operations of storage, examination and delivery.
The new establishment meant to deal exclusively with imported cargo dispatched in foreign aircraft, is in close proximity to the export freight terminal, with a ramp connecting the two.
This development also brings to light the disparity between the amount of import and export cargo handled by the airport. Reportedly, throughout FY2016-17, only 50 tonnes of imports were handled at this airport while the amount of export cargo went beyond 6,900 tonnes, bringing the total annual cargo to 6965 tonnes. The monthly averages also confirm the story, as imports round up to about 4 tonnes while exports clock over 500 tonnes every month.
According to an official at the cargo complex, the slow clearance from customs office and its non-cooperative nature is an impediment to the growth of import cargo. However, the new dedicated terminal is expected to shore up import cargo numbers in the future.
While export cargo is transported by all five international airlines operating at the airport regularly, only two of them carry import cargo. Air India Express and the Sri Lankan Airlines are two of the import carriers. Apart from these, the export carriers include Tiger Airways, Malindo Air and Air Asia.
"Perishables, agri products, food, flowers and dairy products account for a majority of exports from Trichy Airport," an official in the cargo department said.
"Apart from airlines store purchases, 50% of the import cargo is comprised of human remains and dead bodies, which is cleared free of cost. Trichy Airport is the largest handler of human remains in India," he added.
Due to the absence of flights connecting directly to other major business centres in India, transport of domestic cargo from the airport is nearly non-existent. Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai are other destinations in Tamil Nadu which handle a significant amount of air cargo via their dedicated cargo complexes.
The new import cargo processing area was established to fill in for the previously existing arrangement, which was recently transformed into an international courier terminal awaiting commissioning. Freight is expected to grow once the facility gets commissioned.
The newly built international courier terminal is infrastructurally well-equipped with an x-ray machine to scan consignments. Airport authorities have waited six months for the commissioning, which simply needs a nod from the Customs office in Tiruchi.
"The price differential and the policy of fast clearance unique to couriers warrants a separate dedicated facility for them. All the formalities have been duly fulfilled. The payment of cost recovery charges for a Customs Officer to be posted to the courier function has also been made by the Airport Authorities," a senior official at the 4000 square metres cargo complex of Trichy Airport said.
"Due to the fear of thriving business of gold smuggling and the fast clearance mechanism of the courier terminal which could be beneficial for smugglers, the Customs Office is hesitant to put the final stamp of approval, but it is only a matter of time before we start international courier operations," he added.