The government of Ukraine is working to stabilise and improve the nation’s ground handling services, reports Eugene Gerden
The ongoing reform involves the de-monopolisation of ground handling activities at Ukrainian airports and the creation of conditions for greater competition and transparency in the industry.
According to the Ukrainian government, as well as some local experts in the field of ground handling, implementation of the reform is urgently required, as the current situation in the country’s ground handling industry remains complex.
The idea of the reform was put forward for the first time in the middle of last year; however, due to a shortage of funds in the Ukrainian budget and the economic crisis in the country, its implementation was suspended for an indefinite period of time.
Analysts from the Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure say that the need for the reform is also related to the decision of the country’s government to close its domestic airspace to Russian airlines, which resulted in serious losses for Ukrainian ground handling providers – the majority of whom have traditionally specialised in the provision of ground handling services to Russian companies.
To date, the majority of services in the field of ground handling in Ukraine have been provided by the airports themselves or by companies affiliated with them. This has resulted in the setting of overstated tariffs for services and the implementation of discriminatory measures in regard to airlines.
The reform is expected to help the Ukrainian government to restrict the current domination of monopolies in this field. It also involves more active adoption of Western experience in the provision of ground handling services, which is expected to take place through the attraction of Western experts in this field.
It is planned that part of the funds will be allocated for the modernisation and further development of IT infrastructure at Ukrainian airports, which should ensure the provision of high-quality regular services in the field of ground handling.
Due to the current financial crisis in Ukraine, some local airports have recently revealed their plans to outsource ground handling services to private operators. For example, such plans have been announced by Boryspil in Kiev (the largest airport in Ukraine in terms of passenger traffic).
According to state plans, implementation of the reform should be finally completed by the end of 2017.
The reform also involves more active purchases of ground support equipment (GSE) for the needs of Ukrainian airports. In recent years the demand for high quality GSE has significantly increased, which resulted in better quality ground support services.
The Ukrainian GSE market has grown significantly, mainly as a result of the modernisation of airfield infrastructure and the purchase of modern equipment at some of the country’s airports. For example, Kiev Boryspil airport last year invested about US$30 million in the purchase of new airport equipment – mostly aircraft tugs, high-loaders, de-icers and apron buses.
Still, according to experts from the Ukrainian State Transport Leasing Company, Ukraine’s largest leasing company in the field of transport, despite the growth of the market in recent years and several investment projects undertaken by the country’s leading airports, the current situation in the industry remains complex. GSE at Ukraine’s airports displays a great deal of wear and tear due to its age and also because many of the country’s runways do not meet international standards and, indeed, are almost unsuitable for operation.
Currently most of Ukraine’s GSE is imported. Domestic manufacturers tend to make outdated equipment designed during the Soviet era, or copies of imported equipment. The need for new designs to comply with international standards is part of the picture.
As a rule, the majority of the country’s regional airports do not have enough funds to purchase quality imported GSE, and are therefore obliged to use locally manufactured equipment or products made in the CIS region. Kiev, on the other hand, uses a higher level of foreign-made GSE.