Govt orders airlines, ground handlers to use energy efficient
While companies have welcomed the ministry’s green initiatives, they said the implementation timelines are tight, especially in view of the financial challenges faced by the aviation sector during the pandemic.
Ground handling includes tasks like check-in, passenger boarding, cargo loading and unloading, aircraft cleaning, etc. While domestic airlines are allowed to do self-handling, foreign airlines are dependent on GH companies.
Airlines and GH companies use motorized and non-motorized equipment such as low floor buses, step ladders, pushback tugs, cargo loaders, baggage tractors, pallet dolly, tow bars.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation said in November, “It has been decided that all GH agencies and airlines doing self-handling at airports, where movement of more than 35 lakh passengers per year, will be equipped with ground support equipment and vehicles.” will adhere to the minimum standard of 1 order. The order will cover around twenty five top airports in the country.
The decision has been taken to ensure the use of state-of-the-art equipment and best practices in line with the Airport Operations Manual of the International Air Transport Association, as well as to maintain an eco-friendly environment at the airports, it said. All self-handling GH companies and airlines will have to ensure strict compliance of minimum standards for Ground Support Equipment (GSE) and vehicles within six months.
The maximum age limit of GSE will be twelve years as per the order. It said that even refurbished equipment would not be allowed under any circumstances. The government also wants companies to include electric devices or switch to diesel vehicles compliant with Bharat-VI emission norms.
“After careful evaluation of the guidelines for our equipment, we will submit a feasibility report to the ministry. IndiGo is committed to sustainable growth and we have already rolled out diesel powered GSEs to electric ones at various airports.
R Ramana, director and CEO, GH agency AISATS, said, “The norms would require us to invest several crores. Equipment like pushback tractors or low loaders (pallet loaders) are made to order. Usually after placing the order. It takes 6-8 months to achieve them. The intent of the policy is right. Every airport in the country was coming with its own policy and thus the common standards would help. But the timeline for its implementation has been extended and prepared So that airlines and ground handling companies are able to meet the conditions based on the impact of capital expenditure.
AISATS is one of the two GH companies owned by Air India and operates at five airports. AISATS is being acquired by the Tata Group along with the airline. Another firm, AI Airport Services Limited, operates at other airports. Its CEO Rambabu CH said the government has issued the order based on the recommendations of the GH agencies, but sought extension of the deadline by six months in view of the fund crunch facing the company.
“Overall this is a good policy and will lead to standardization of equipment, bring equipment at par with international standards and most importantly help in reducing pollution. We welcome the initiative. However there are some challenges. One has the potential to be able to implement certain specialized equipment as stated due to non-availability of electric versions. Second, is the lead time required to convert the entire field. The Ground Handling Association will make a representation to the government regarding these points,” said Murali Ramachandran, India CEO of Celebi Aviation Holding, a GH
“We have been switching to electric units while making new investments over the years. All our baggage tractors are electric. Quite a few luggage loaders and passenger ladders are electrically operated. We have also invested in taxi bots (which enable aircraft to taxi without an engine),” Ramachandran said.
Industry sources also state that an adequate number of charging points will also need to be made available at airports to support the use of electric ground handling equipment.
Some heavy equipment such as low loaders can also be refurbished and used for up to twenty years according to the original equipment manufacturer’s recommendations. A source said the policy could possibly accommodate the use of high-value equipment that has been refurbished and certified for use by OEMs.
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