Advantage thanks to smart cooperation

How the programme Schiphol Smartgate Cargo makes the Dutch national airport an even more attractive gateway to Europe.

The official opening of the Joint Inspection Center on 22 November 2016 is the conclusion of the long-term Schiphol Smartgate Cargo programme. The key to the success of SSGC is cooperation, both between public and private parties and mutually between government departments. Programme manager on behalf of Dutch Customs, Renate De Vries: “What we are realising here is so beautiful that we will develop similar facilities in the port of Rotterdam.”

The aim of SSGC, which is an initiative of Customs, Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), KLM Cargo and Schiphol, is to handle the freight process in a quicker, more efficient and safer way. De Vries: “This gives Schiphol a tremendous advantage as a mainport compared to other airports, where inspections take longer, because local government organisations operate more on their own. There are more customs administrations with a fantastic IT structure in the world or an excellent service, but it is the cooperation with Schiphol and other commercial parties which make this programme unique. Nowhere else the government and the business sector work together on such a large scale in this specific field.”

De Vries in particular emphasises the importance of pooling resources by public services. “All this could only be realised because of a basis we created with various reinforcement organisations.* We joined forces, without taking over each other’s responsibilities. This was an extra incentive for the business sector to also participate.”

Prepared for the future
The starting point of SSGC is actually quite simple, according to De Vries. “We examined what was essential for all of us with about 230 companies at the airport which are active in the logistical goods flow. Time is money in the business sector, which stimulates the need for a rapid and effective inspection process. A safe and honest goods flow is on top of the list of priorities of the government. These are no opposed interests. If the cargo flow is not safe and secure, government departments will carry out their inspections somewhere else in this transport chain. This will create delays. Then there is a great risk that aviation companies and transporters may prefer to ignore Schiphol.”

Logistics and reinforcement physically come together in the Joint Inspection Center. The multifunctional building, which is 130 metres long and 40 metres wide, includes a distribution floor, a scanning hall, storage and research rooms, a garage for vehicles, offices and a training centre. The building has been designed in such a way that goods inspections can be carried out as much as possible in an integrated way at quiet moments in the logistics process because of innovative techniques. “Between concept development and the actual delivery lie a few years”, De Vries says. “This has to with our aim of sustainability. We wanted to avoid that the JIC is already outdated at the opening. We had to respond to unforeseen social developments during the preparations and construction. For example, consider the growing threat of international terrorist movements.”

 Increasing insight
In view of the required flexibility the parties involved had the opportunity, if necessary, to intervene during the entire phase. Moreover, all kinds of adaptations are also possible in the future. De Vries: “Certain rooms on which we did not place a second and third floor now have been designed in such a way that this can be done at a later stage. For example, the foundations, have been strengthened at these places. And the scanning hall would initially have two package scans. After assessing the situation this was changed into one pallet scan and one package scan. And room has been reserved for another pallet scan. If the goods flow will increase to such an extent that a second pallet scan will be necessary, we can easily purchase and install it. Here you see the advantage of a public-private partnership. Because you work together with a partner like CAN – which has its own prognoses of the increase in air freight – you can make a realistic estimation of the inspection capacity you need in the coming years.”

More favourable business climate
In the end everybody will profit from the SSGC programme, according to De Vries. “Logistics is a prime focus of the current government policy, and the basis of the Netherlands, Inc.. Our reputation as a trading nation is therefore vital. When we make mistakes we notice this at once. Take, for example, a perishable product such as cut flowers, which are one of our most important export products. They are exported in large quantities by air, not by road or by sea. If you would lose this export to a foreign airport because they are more efficient, this would be a considerable loss, also with regard to employment. With an initiative like SSGC we contribute to a better business climate, so that our country can climb a number of steps again on the international business ladder. The fact that we managed to make such a large and multi-layered programme into a success is worth a compliment for all parties involved.”

“The SSGC-concept does not only apply to the cargo sector”, De Vries concludes. “What we have realised here is so beautiful that we will develop similar facilities in the Rotterdam port. This State Inspectorate Terminal will be officially opened in 2017. This is good news for foreign companies, because for many of them Rotterdam is also the gate to Europe.”

* Organisations such as the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, the National Centre for Radiation Safety, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority and the Royal Marechaussee.

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