April 27, 2015: Panalpina is adding calls in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, as part of its long-term strategy to expand and optimize its controlled air freight network. Scheduled charters that are operated by Silk Way West Airlines and fly between Luxembourg and Shanghai now call in Baku four times per week.
Panalpina's services between Luxembourg and Baku, and Baku and Shanghai, are called Caspian Star and Panda Star, respectively.
Silk Way deploys 747-8 freighters, which are particularly well-suited for the transport of outsized oil and gas equipment and temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals.
Silk Way West Airlines' forthcoming service mentality has prompted Panalpina to extend its cooperation with the Azerbaijan-based carrier. So far, Panalpina has offered a midweek scheduled charter from Luxembourg to Shanghai via Baku and back. However, Panalpina has now introduced a second rotation on the weekend, as well.
"This is a two-way, twice-weekly connection with blocked space in both directions," says Sou Ping Chee, Panalpina's head of Air Freight for Asia Pacific. "Eastbound we fly mostly temperature- sensitive pharmaceuticals, where we see further growth potential. The majority of this cargo flies all the way to Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which is home to new cool chain facilities. On the way back to Europe via Baku, we carry mostly fast fashion and high-tech products."
The nose-loading capability of the deployed 747-8 freighters is also ideal for outsized oil and gas cargo. "We deliver equipment from Luxembourg to Azerbaijan for the country's main oil and gas fields east of Baku in the Caspian Sea," says Slavey Djahov, Panalpina's head of Air Freight for the Middle East, Africa and CIS (MEAC).
Panalpina's cargo mix into Baku is slowly shifting, though. Most of the cargo that is offloaded in Baku is for the company's international oil and gas customers, but volumes of technology goods, as well as pharmaceuticals, are growing. "We have observed increased customer demand in these areas," Djahov notes. "Silk Way not only provides the capacity with modern freighters but is also investing in airport facilities in Baku and thereby contributing to an efficient and secure end-to-end supply chain into Azerbaijan."
Peter Triebel, Panalpina's regional CEO for the MEAC region, adds: "Baku has benefited from oil and gas revenues and is developing quickly. While oil and gas production and exports remain central to Azerbaijan's economy, increasingly we are witnessing the demand-patterns of a diversifying economy. Baku is in full transformation."