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A Brief History of Sea-Air Transportation

‘Sea-Air' transportation is not new; it has merely been brought up to date with a clear brand identity as The Albatros Sea-Air Service.

 

Multimodal transportation (i.e. two or more modes) has been in existence since trade began.

 

The 1960's saw the start of mass-market sea-air operations on two routes; Japan to Europe via North America and India to Europe via the UAE.

 

At that time ocean vessels from Japan to Europe were much slower than today and air capacity was limited to 707 and DC8 freighters. Major Japanese manufacturers had to meet European demand for their consumer goods and looked for ways to deliver on time.

 

Airlines on the North America/Europe trade were also seeking eastbound freight especially from Canada which had little airfreight trade with Europe.

 

So Japanese goods were shipped to Vancouver and Seattle/Tacoma by sea and trucked to both local and eastern airports for on-carriage to Europe.

 

Charter airlines flying in supplies to the Middle East to meet the demands of the new oil economies looked for back loads to offset their fuel costs on the return journey. They attracted Indian textile suppliers who were again short of air capacity to ship by sea to the UAE for on-carriage to Europe.

 

Pricing was an early problem as no airline wished to take on the risk of offering a through rate due to the complexity of bringing ocean and airfreight charging systems together.

 

Another difficulty for airlines was matching the varying volumes they were able to attract with the finite capacity they were trying to fill. This produced unreliable transit times especially during the peak seasons.

 

Whilst these two markets varied greatly in their degrees of sophistication and the products being shipped, they were similar in two key respects: -

 

1. They were both, and still remain, predominantly shipper-controlled.
2. They were 'operated' by airlines whose interest in sea-air was only short-term.

 

In the following years traffic flows, aircraft types, vessel and aircraft scheduling change and their interest in the sea-air mode of transport waned.

 

Similar situations continue to arise elsewhere. Airlines flying from Korea and Taiwan often face reduced loads and look to attract sea-air traffic from China. But as soon as airfreight capacity matches demand from these countries, airlines increase rates and customers cease to be interested in the route.

 

It was clear to S.A.T., the founders of the Albatros service, that sea-air transportation would always remain a very small percentage of the overall tonnage moving from Asia to Europe. That meant that in order to develop to its full potential, it had to be in the hands of specialist sea-air carriers who were willing to invest heavily in the continuous development of an infrastructure that would be sustainable over many years.

 

The S.A.T. group foresaw that the UAE, centring on Dubai and Sharjah, would be an ideal area to develop. The continued growth of scheduled passenger and all-cargo flights, as well as the numerous aircraft available for charter or contract in the region, would confirm their thinking as correct.

 

From the start Albatros offered a service with a simple rating system in US Dollars per kilo, similar in structure to airfreight, that covered the seamless movement from origin port to destination airport. The Albatros Combined Transport Document or CTD issued has a similar level of liability to that of an airline's Air Waybill.

 

Albatros remains today, probably the world's only sea-air specialist. It includes within its client base some of the world's major forwarders, shipping lines, airlines and multi-national commercial companies as well as many smaller operations. They are all-important and help to make Albatros by far the leading sea-air carrier in the world today!

 

We hope soon to call you a client!

 

22 November 2005

 

Cromac Smith Ltd., 34-40 Warwick Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 1HE U.K.
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