PNG FREIGHT BACKS UP AS AIRLINES STRUGGLE

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By Jason Som Kaut

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 2) - Freight services have been hardest hit by the closure of third level airline, Airlink, and now the [maintenance problems with] national flag carrier Air Niugini.

[PIR editor’s note: Domestic Papua New Guinea airline Airlink was grounded following the crash landing in May of one of its small planes in Goroka, Eastern Highlands province]

Major air freight companies yesterday claimed they were not moving cargo to destinations in PNG on schedule because of the problems in the airline industry.

These sentiments were shared by two of the major air freighting companies TNT Air Cargo and DHL, whose domestic services have also been affected. Another company also hard hit is Post PNG, which relies on Air Niugini for its express mail services (EMS).

TNT general manger Doug Maskelyne said the air freighting service had been unacceptable since the cancellation of Airlink’s operations earlier this year.

"Combined issues including the closure of Airlink, reduction of Airlines PNG operations and increase in cargo movement due to the national elections have really affected us," Mr. Maskelyne said.

He said because of unreliable Air Niugini schedule, they had to continue chartering third level airline twice a week to service the major centers of Port Moresby and Lae, while Kavieng, Vanimo, Hoskins and Manus were the most affected with freight overdue for movement.

"Where possible, we are trying not to use Air Niugini but some places, we have no option like Vanimo," he said.

The company moves about 5,000 tons per day.

"There seems to be no immediate solution but we hope the engagement of a Boeing 757 would allow Air Niugini to release Fokker100 aircraft back to at least maintain the domestic schedule," Maskelyne said.

DHL operations manager Brad Ashweld said the company had its own plane to use but was also utilizing third level airlines.

It uses Airlines PNG services on Mondays, and Wednesdays and its own plane on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"We have other options to move freight but our domestic operations have also been affected," Mr Ashweld said.

Post PNG Momase regional manager Ben Davies said they had also been affected with a ‘doubling in off-loads’.

"Our express mail service (EMS) is a same-day service but we are unable to deliver the service because of unreliable air service," Mr Davies said.

He said sea and trucking options were available but they were not as effective and efficient.

Business houses including Hornibrooks NGI Ltd and InterOil had also recently expressed concerns at the unacceptable level of service. Hornibrooks company director Sherron Lewis said she had to wait for hours to return to Lae that saw her missing important appointments after the midday flight was cancelled.

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