At the heart of Singapore’s Changi Airport lies the nerve centre of Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) cargo operations. This sprawling hub serves as a lynchpin in the global supply chain, facilitating the seamless movement of goods across continents. From electronics and pharmaceuticals to fresh produce and even wildlife like horses and alpacas, SIA’s cargo fleet ensures that vital commodities reach their destinations swiftly and securely. SIA’s cargo hub is home to world-class logistical facilities, including advanced warehousing, temperature-controlled storage and high-tech tracking systems, enabling the airline to handle a diverse range of cargo with utmost precision.
In this exclusive feature, the SilverKris team speaks to two duty managers at Cargo Hub operations, Tan Ee Shuen and Chen Jun Wen, for a peek into what goes on behind the scenes during the night shift at SIA.
A vital link in global trade
SIA’s cargo operations are not merely about transporting goods; they are about keeping the world moving, especially in times of crisis. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline’s cargo division played a pivotal role in transporting essential medical supplies, vaccines and personal protective equipment to regions grappling with the virus. The adaptability and resilience showcased by SIA’s cargo operations highlighted the importance of airfreight in global crises.
Beyond emergencies, SIA’s cargo hub supports various industries – such as automotive, fashion and e-commerce – by ensuring the timely delivery of components and products. The hub’s reliability and efficiency have made it a trusted partner for businesses worldwide, reinforcing Singapore’s status as a global economic powerhouse.
But with so many different types of cargo going up on the planes on a daily basis, one question the team often gets is – how does it all fit? As Chen explains, the easiest way to picture it is to think of Lego, where you have blocks that come in different shapes and sizes. “When the agents make their bookings, they will indicate the dimensions of the shipments and the planner will have to visualise how much can fit into a single pallet [in order to] maximise the space as much as possible,” he shares.
Managing the different types of cargo is just one of the many challenges that the cargo operations team has to grapple with. As with all flight operations, the weather is a major factor that they have to take into consideration when doing logistical planning. “We have to bear in mind that any delays would have a domino effect on the flight schedules due to airport curfew or transit cargo connection, causing further irregularities,” says Chen. “Therefore, it’s essential that we work closely with our ground handlers and internal stakeholders to mitigate any potential adverse impact.”
Other challenges include dealing with unexpected situations and being able to think on their feet and make decisions swiftly and purposefully. “There are times where inbound flights were late and transiting cargo would not be able to make it on the connecting flight,” Tan shares. “We will then have to consider multiple factors and decide whether to delay the [subsequent] flights on a case-by-case basis, and coordinate with all relevant parties to ensure that the shipment goes on board smoothly. This is especially important when lives are involved, be it human, animals or plants.”
Both duty managers agree that keeping the big picture in mind helps them stay motivated when the going gets tough. “What keeps me going during a challenging shift is knowing that people across the globe are working together to achieve a common goal, to ensure safe and smooth freighter and cargo operations,” Tan shares.
Chen agrees, “The knowledge that my work has a significant impact keeps me engaged and attentive during the most difficult shifts.”
When unexpected delays or diversions happen, Singapore Airlines’ round-the-clock Operations Control Centre and Customer Care Team spring into actions. Learn more about their work here.
Curious about what goes into planning a flight and the logistics that go into planning crew schedules? Click here to find out!
To discover the role of station managers and how they ensure the punctual departure and turnaround of all Singapore Airlines flights at Changi Airport, click here.