After more than a year of widebody freighter operations, which began in June 2018 with a 767-300BCF, Casablanca-based Royal Air Maroc (RAM) is preparing to expand its freighter network and fleet.
According to the carrier, cross-border e-commerce and perishables trade originating in North Africa have driven its plans for fleet and network development. Given its anticipation of continued growth in these sectors, the carrier plans to further expand its operations over the next few years, though plans have yet to be solidified.
To learn more about RAM’s factors driving expansion of the company’s global freight operations, Air Cargo World spoke with Salim Quouninich, VP Cargo, Royal Air Maroc.
ACW: What are some of the more promising cargo markets in the Northern Africa region, and globally? Which commodities or industries are driving growth for these markets?
QUOUNINICH: Morocco shows strong potential as a major cargo market in North Africa. The country is very competitive in the sector of agri-food exports and is a large producer of fresh vegetables, citrus fruits and terroir products. While Europe has been its main market so far, Morocco is starting to develop stronger trade relationships with North and South America. There is also significant potential for agri-food exportations to Africa where the demand is increasing.
Along with agriculture, the automotive, aeronautics, e-commerce and electronics industries are currently the major growth driving factors in Morocco. As a matter of fact, a number of national industry-specific plans have been designed to modernize traditional sectors such as agriculture and fishing, and to develop innovative industries. As such, Morocco’s flourishing agri-food sector and its booming industrial development make it one of the most promising cargo market in North Africa.
ACW: How is RAM Cargo working to accommodate these markets? Any unique challenges when it comes to catering to these markets?
QUOUNINICH: Our freighter schedule includes 5 destinations in West Africa served weekly and operates from our Hub based in Morocco. These markets are thus the focus of our cargo development strategy, but some challenges remain. While our freighter operations have overall been satisfying, we are still facing the complexity of directional imbalance between Africa-Europe and Europe – Africa air flows. Moreover, perishable goods, which represent the majority of the region’s exports, have relatively low yields. In addition, market knowledgeability is key to succeeding in the African market, and very few carriers were able to position themselves as major players in the Western part of the continent. Despite these difficulties, we are fully committed to thrive in this market and we are prepared to seize current and future developing market opportunities in the area.
ACW: Are there any new investments in product or technology, or other projects in the pipeline?
QUOUNINICH: Royal Air Maroc has joined the Cargo iQ community in 2019. This move is in line with our airline’s customer-oriented strategy. The Cargo iQ initiative aims to define and implement quality standards for the Cargo industry on a global scale. By being part of this collaborative endeavor, we aim to reach operational excellence and provide our clients with a higher level of quality service. In fact, we are expected to obtain our first Cargo iQ certification during the first semester of 2020.
In terms of offering, we have just launched our winter Freighter schedule. The B767-300F will be serving 8 destinations via Casablanca, including Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, Abidjan, Niamey, Lagos, Bamako and Douala.
We are also field-testing a new express service in our Frankfurt Hub. If successful, this service will be extended to our entire network.
ACW: How do you expect your freighter fleet and network to evolve over time?
QUOUNINICH: The development pace of wide-body routes and the acquisition of additional passenger aircrafts are both key to our freighter fleet and network evolution. A larger number of passenger destinations and an increased number of wide-body routes would secure a broader reach for our existing Freighter network. It will also lead to the acquisition of additional freighters as a result of the development of new trade lane opportunities.