The need for drastically elevated levels of equipment required to combat and curb the spread of Covid-19 pushed up air freight throughput at OR Tambo International Airport by 62%, reports have revealed.
According to information received, the airport recorded about 1400 cargo flights for the period of 26 March to 22 May.
In April alone the airport received almost twice as many cargo flights compared to the same period last year – from 294 in 2019 to 476 during the first month of South Africa’s lockdown.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), medical devices and pharmaceuticals are said to have dramatically contributed to the increase in volumes.
The airport furthermore stated that the sharp spike in demand for PPE and related Covid goods had been so high it had inundated systems and services at OR Tambo, causing a ripple effect across cargo handling efficiencies on the ground as staff battled to cope with the influx of material.
Because some airlines used passenger planes to fly in PPE and Covid stock in a bid to cater for demand, a lot of cargo was not packed and sealed in a manner ground-handling staff expects, resulting in unloading and storage issues on the ground.
Problems experienced on the ground were also said to have been exacerbated by social distancing Covid-19 protocols, affecting the efficacy of existing capacity.
In the ensuing chaos, clearing of cargo was affected, resulting in freight forwarders not being able to duly deliver cargo to importers.