A five-tonne capacity cold storage facility for storing perishables would be set up at the Air Cargo Complex at Tiruchi Airport by end of March.

The cold storage is being established with the support of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). The facility would come up at the airport as soon as necessary clearances were issued by the Airports Authority of India, said S.Dharmaraj, Airport Director, Tiruchi.

The air cargo complex is also likely to get the Electronic Data Interchange (EID) for speedy processing and clearance of export/import procedure. “Efforts were underway in association with the Customs Department to get the facility, also by March end,” Mr.Dharmaraj said speaking at a function to mark the first anniversary of the air cargo complex at the airport on Friday.

The opening of the air cargo complex, which became functional on December 1, 2011, has contributed to a steady increase in export of cargo through the airport. The complex has handled 2,143 tonnes of cargo over the past 12 months, accounting for a 20 per cent increase over the corresponding period the previous year. However, the annual handling capacity of the complex was around 45,000 leaving a huge gap in capacity utilization. The complex had a capacity to handle 250 tonnes of cargo and it currently handles about 200 tonnes a month on an average.

Given the facilities available and 43 international flights a week, there was big scope for increasing cargo exports and imports through the airport, which caters to about 14 districts around Tiruchi, Mr.Dharmaraj said and appealed to the industry and other stakeholders to increase cargo movement. He also appealed to Air India to lift cargo from the airport as the national carrier currently does not do so owing to a policy decision.

K.Anantha Padmanaban, Chief Commissioner of Customs (Preventive), Tiruchi, observed that efforts to increase the capacity utilisation of the cargo complex have to come from all stakeholders. “You have to survive by providing better service and facilities,” he told the airport officials. Though the volume of transaction was less at the air cargo complex, much importance was being attached to Tiruchi as manifest by the shifting of the headquarters of the Chief Commissioner of Customs (Preventive) to the city from Chennai. He assured the cooperation of the Customs in increasing cargo exports and imports through the airport.

D.K.Srinivas, Commissioner of Customs, Tiruchi, observed that given the proximity of Tiruchi to several other ports and airports in the State, the AAI had to hard sell the facilities available here. He suggested that the authorities organise road shows to project the facilities in Tiruchi.

T.V.Murali, Chairman, Confederation of Indian Industry, Tiruchi Zone, underlined the need for more domestic flights to the city to increase domestic cargo movement. The export potential from Tiruchi was steadily rising and urged the authorities to focus on attracting non-perishable cargo, which currently forms the mainstay of the air cargo complex. Once the airport expansion was over, paving the way for movement of wide bodied aircrafts, cargo movement would increase, he said.

L.Gnanaraj, president, District Chamber of Commerce, too emphasised the need for more domestic connectivity as it could spur cargo shipments.

S.Subramanian, Manager, Cargo, Tiruchi Airport, said bonded trucking service was introduced, which gives scope for export and import of cargo through other major airports in the country. The air cargo complex had trained manpower to handle hazardous cargo too. The complex had achieved quick turnaround time of both export and import cargo and there was no procedural delays.

Awards

Sri Lankan Airlines bagged the award for lifting the highest quantum of cargo (72 per cent of the total exports) among airlines operating from the city, while Al Salaam Exports bagged the award for exporting the highest quantum of cargo through the airport. Skyfield India Pvt.Ltd, got an award for maximum transaction, Guru’s International for accurate and regular shipments and AJ Exporters, Madurai, for quality packing and product shipments. Mr.Anantha Padmanaban presented the awards.