RICHARD MALKIN'S AIR CARGO FOCUS

RICHARD MALKIN'S AIR CARGO FOCUS

UNQUESTIONABLY, scheduled international airlines are in the difficult position of playing catch-up in the new door-to-door game. There's very little finger-pointing, for they're aware that they dragged their feet too long. Nevertheless, expectations among these carriers exist, although they vary in degree.

Airlines are perfectly willing to credit the integrators with having introduced a new, important element in the logistical picture. But in a single voice, they assert their determination to carve out a portion of that market.Paul Moorhouse, TNT Skypak's managing director for the worldwide courier/ express system, however, has a completely different perception of the future.

"In no way do I anticipate serious competition by the airlines," he says. And when asked why, given the airlines' huge resources, he says: ''Because they can't match us on the ground."

Despite the competitive squaring off of the integrated and traditional air cargo services, the young executive holds that Skypak is encountering no operational difficulties with the international carriers hauling its traffic. In fact, he adds, "it's better than it's ever been." All of Skypak's intercontinental shipments are transported by scheduled airlines.

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IF A FEW OF Mr. Moorhouse's peers among the integrators harbor thoughts of gradually disappearing from the air freight forwarding industry, he curtly rejects such conclusions. The intermediary, he states, provides "a needed service." He expects the middleman to continue as a prominent element in the picture. Although Skypak's integrated service obviates any need for an agent, the company's formation some time ago of an air freight forwarding unit to

serve hard-freight shippers underscores Mr. Moorhouse's viewpoint.

With the cost of doing business in the express/courier sector continuing to ascend, he expects gradual whittling down of the number of firms providing these services. Those soonest to be affected by the squeeze will be firms that not only are underfinanced but unable to offer service that is qualitatively competitive.

The air couriers' boast that the parcels and documents placed in their care are carried to the destination airport or sorting facility by a live courier, is a dwindling practice, a casualty of escalating costs and refined procedures at the airport. According to Mr. Moorhouse, Skypak still clings to the human convoy to most of its destinations.

Last year, Emery Air Freight was folded into CF Airfreight as Emery Worldwide, reducing the integrator population by one. Does Skypak's managing director expect the rise of another integrator to fill the vacancy created by the merger? He sees no sign of this happening in the foreseeable future. If anything, he hazards the possibility of an amalgamation or "one more fallout" - which would subtract to the same result.

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IT WAS MR. MOORHOUSE who started Mailfast, the company's international mail-forwarding service that has experienced a meteoric rise. He served as the unit's general manager prior to assuming his present position in 1989. Handling business mail exclusively, Mailfast currently flies 85 percent of all its traffic to the destination country for posting there. The remainder is mailed from a post office in a country closest to the destination country.

Mailfast's success notwithstanding, it is the small parcel that towers over all other of the firm's services in terms of future potential. Europe's unified market, scheduled for activation in 1993, will not affect the Skypak operation in any way, Mr. Moorhouse believes. His reason: "We're already set; we're already there." Last year's Skypak results over the preceding year reportedly showed a 35 percent leap in both weight and revenue, and growth has not slackened.

With the pride of success in shepherding Mailfast to a kind of stardom in the company, the executive keeps a close eye on all matters affecting the so- called "remail" business. He is particularly concerned about post office biases toward the anti-commercial mail operators and their influence in the Universal Postal Union. The postal-service authorities in a number of nations have been accused of restrictive practices, allegedly to perpetuate their monopoly positions. Indeed, at the recent month-long 20th UPU Congress in Washington - it meets every five years in a different city - sensitivity to the growth of the remailers was in unmistakable evidence. Does he see, as charged, a UPU conspiracy against them?

"Definitely," Paul Moorhouse says. "Absolutely."