Forwarding and express firms based at Brussels Zaventem Airport are preparing contingency plans after a deadly terrorist attack this morning at the passenger terminal of Belgium’s main airport caused all flights and airside cargo operations to be suspended.
Kevin Nash, managing director of Kuehne + Nagel Belgium, told Lloyd’s Loading List that several of the company’s staff had been present at its facility located at the airside Brucargo cargo complex at Brussels Zaventem when the explosions occurred.
“They are safe and well, which is the main thing. Brucargo is located four kilometres away from the scene of the explosions,” he said.
“We are currently finalising a business contingency plan, which could include re-routing air freight to other airports. There is no indication yet when the airport might re-open for passenger and freighter flights and we are also waiting for the all-clear from the Belgian authorities for the Brucargo hub to resume operations for the reception and dispatch of shipments. We are keeping customers fully-informed of the situation.”
K+N also has an off-airport bonded warehouse nearby that is functioning normally, Nash added.
But the company has had to suspend its drinks logistics operation in the Belgian capital due to the security situation in the city centre following a separate explosion this morning at one of the city’s central metro stations, Maelbeek.
A spokesman for global forwarder Panalpina confirmed to Lloyd’s Loading List that all activities at Brussels Airport had been stopped and flights cancelled.
“The Brucargo area has been closed down, meaning that Panalpina’s activities will be disrupted until further notice. Fortunately, no Panalpina employees were present in the area of the explosions.”
Another forwarding source told Lloyd’s Loading List that the closures would inevitably impact the movement of freight, “especially in the short term, bearing in mind the importance of Zaventem as a courier and freight hub”. In addition to general cargo and express traffic, Brussels Airport is an important European hub for pharmaceuticals and perishables traffic.
Meanwhile, in a status update on its operations in Brussels, one of 19 regional hubs in its global network, DHL said: “As a result of today’s terror attacks in Brussels, there are a number of ongoing security operations in the city and airport. DHL Express and DHL Parcel have temporarily suspended delivery and pick-up services in the city centre and we have strengthened security measures at facilities, including our hub at Zaventem Airport.”
It added: “All flights to and from Brussels are currently suspended, and we are therefore reviewing contingency options for shipments currently scheduled to transit Brussels to ensure that they can be re-routed and that disruption for customers is minimized.
“Please note that delays on shipments to and from Brussels are likely. Services to other locations in Belgium are being maintained. We will provide further updates once they become available.”
All flights to Brussels have been cancelled or diverted.
A source within Brussels Airport’s cargo department told Lloyd’s Loading List that not much information was available at the moment in terms of the potential resumption of cargo activities or flights, with the focus currently still on making sure people are evacuated and taken care off. He hoped that more information would follow in the coming hours.
Security at other European airports has also reportedly been stepped up following the deadly attacks this morning, which have reportedly left more than 25 people dead and dozens injured. Two explosions hit Zaventem Airport, located 11km north-east of Brussels, at about 08.00 local time (07.00 GMT), and another struck Maelbeek metro station an hour later. Brussels transport officials say 15 died at Maelbeek and media reports indicate 11 died in the airport attack, the BBC reports.
The attacks come four days after Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive in the Paris attacks, was arrested in Brussels.
Belgium has now raised its terror threat to its highest level. The BBC reports that Belgium’s Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, had said on Monday that the country was on the highest level of alert for possible revenge attacks after the capture of Salah Abdeslam.