Mercury Air Cargo combats LAX congestion with CargoSprint SprintPass  

Mercury Air Cargo began implementing cargo communication and payment platform CargoSprint’s SprintPass at its Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) facilities on Oct. 1. The move is intended to decrease waiting times for freight forwarders picking up import shipments and support the flow of cargo through facilities as LAX faces continued congestion issues.

SprintPass is a digital platform where freight forwarders can log on to schedule a time and input data on import shipments they need to pick up from cargo handler Mercury’s facilities before driving out. When the data has been entered, Mercury staff will receive an update prompting them to collect and consolidate the required shipment pieces. When the driver arrives at their scheduled time, they will skip the main line and drive to a dedicated gate to sign for the cargo on an iPad, pick up their cargo and go. This program is intended to save significant amounts of time and streamline the import pick-up process by eliminating the need for freight forwarders to visit several different counters for shipments from different customers within the same facility.

Mercury Air Cargo is first rolling out SprintPass in its two largest buildings at LAX, 6040 Avion Drive and 6041 West Imperial Highway, Mercury Air Cargo President and COO John Peery told Air Cargo World. Operations carried out with SprintPass will serve as a “litmus test” prior to expanding the program to the rest of Mercury’s LAX facilities. These two facilities see approximately 38,000 tonnes of cargo per month and house the operations of carriers, such as British Airways, Air Lingus, Iberia, Hong Kong Air, Fiji Air and All Nippon Airways. Mercury Air Cargo sees roughly a quarter of the entire volumes of cargo moving through LAX annually in its five facilities combined, according to Peery.

By leveraging SprintPass, Mercury Air Cargo intends to reduce waiting times and increase operational efficiency despite continued congestion at LAX. Mercury Cargo said it has been at capacity for some years now and handles 2.4 million tonnes of cargo in 2 million square feet of warehouse space, meaning it is over-subscribed by 40%.

In 2017, LAX had originally announced plans to reorganize infrastructure and build two new multi-story cargo facilities intended to reduce congestion. Construction was set to begin in 2019. However, the airport authority recently pushed back the start of the project two years to 2021. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), which manages LAX, did not respond to a request for details explaining the change.

LAX is not alone in this ordeal, as congestion has been a major discussion topic for airfreight communities not only in Los Angeles, but also in cities like Dallas, Atlanta, Miami and New York.

“The infrastructure [at airports in general] just hasn’t grown quickly enough to handle the rapid growth of airline cargo transport, so we need to try a new approach,” said Peery. “The sign of insanity is expecting a different outcome while doing the same thing. The responsibility is with all of us in the airfreight community to improve the process. [But] we have to look at things from a different perspective to streamline the import processes.”

Mercury Air Cargo said the process has been difficult thus far as it is the only company working on a structured basis while the community approach presently is come as your time permits.

“If a truck makes a loop and is retrieving cargo from 15 different carriers, they could show up at another carrier and that wait time could be three hours, which could impose upon a reservation already scheduled with us at 11,” said Peery. “If you’ve ever worked with a distribution center [DC], you know you cannot get into a DC unless you have an appointment – you’d better be there by 11 o’clock at a specific door to pick up what you said because they prepared it and they’ve got it by your door when you show up. Load up. All you do is sign and you’re gone. We want to bring it to that type of level.”

Mercury Air Cargo believes that the new program will allow freight forwarders to recognize the benefits of digital scheduling and will promote buy-in throughout the community. The company said it has some buy-in so far but is currently working to further promote the industry move to digital through outreach and meetings with the import department, freight forwarders and LAX Air Cargo Association to tell them what is available and how it can benefit them.

“It’s a very logical and simple approach, but we need everyone to take part in it,” Peery concluded.

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