A lot remains to be done at the Surat Airport to start Cargo facility for quick & easy transport of Diamonds, Textiles, Fresh Fruits & Vegetable produce, Floriculture, Aquaculture and in general for all the medium & large industries in and around Surat district and 4 other districts of South Gujarat region.
A very large chunk of the trade of the Surat district & the South Gujarat region depends upon shipping fresh produce or manufactured goods from the nearest Airport at Mumbai, which is in the neighbouring state. Sadly, no effort had been made thus far for Air cargo facility or to develop Airport infrastructure & Air Connectivity to serve the entire South Gujarat region, which has a large agricultural and industrial base. Most fresh farm producers are either unable to export and lose high returns on their produce by selling it domestically or lose revenue by means of spoiled goods; incurred due to time consuming road transportation to Mumbai for exports. Other manufacturing industries as well, must follow the route of Mumbai or otherwise ship it by time consuming road transport. On the other hand, Diamond businesses face a major security hazard as they must courier high value finished products by road or by rail, as even air connectivity to Mumbai city is very negligible, even to this day.
Currently air cargo facility had been limited to it being available in the form of Charter flights, flown in to bring in fresh prawn cultures, for the Aqua culture farms in and around Surat.
Until, since last few years SpiceJet and Air India has started taking cargo loads along with its passenger services, it is however primarily limited in the form of courier operations and special shipments for Diamond industry. These shipments are expected to increase in multiples with more flights and more destinations being added every few months.
With Indigo airlines adding up several flights connecting to more cities in India in a short span of two years, Surat Airport is currently ferrying an estimated Air-cargo to the tune of 3000 MT annually. With the Cargo complex facility these figures are expected to reach 5 times more than that of the current capacity.
The formation of Air Cargo Logistic Promotion Board, created specially by MOCA, is to promote Air Cargo facility at all the major city airports in the country. On those lines a team from AAI - Regional Headquarters at Mumbai, visited Surat Airport several years back, to evaluate and assess the needs and requirements for a Cargo Terminal in Surat. After several months of deliberations, the plan was approved however, the same remained pending for a long time, first for the tender process and then the final awarding of the contract for the commencement of construction work.
Ironically, Cargo Terminal at Surat Airport is said to be a pet project of the PM himself and is under direct supervision of PMO; however, the entire process is heading at a snail’s pace and had been pushed back time and again, from deadlines, to newer deadlines and from few months to few years passing by, with very little or no progress happening at the ground level.
In a similar case, although the development of High Security Vault area at the Airport had been sanctioned long back, work seems to have barely even taken to any shape till date and promises are being made to provide this facility to the Diamond businesses of the city since years. Till date it is still however unclear when the secured storage facility will finally be made available.
Now that Surat Airport has the status of a Customs Port, it is imperative to have the High Security Vault facility to allow direct Import & Export of Diamonds, for which Surat city is world famous for and in return, earn Tax & Forex revenue to the state government.
The Tender for the Cargo Complex was finally approved, and work was awarded to a Surat based company for the 14,000 sq-ft Cargo Complex at Surat Airport. With ground level area of 10,800 sq-ft and +1 level area of 3,200 sq-ft respectively, totalling 14000 s-ft complex at a cost of Rs 5.56 crores. A work order for the same effect was issued in November 2017 by Western Region Head Quarters in Mumbai with the project completion period of 13 months.
Although the Surat based construction company boasted to achieve completion of work in 9 months and as the construction work commenced in December and counting the 13-month deadline for job completion; the Cargo complex at Surat Airport should have been ready and fully operational, latest by end of December 2018.
However as usual the deadline has crossed, and completion is delayed by 6 additional months. The Cargo complex is now anticipated to be functional, earliest by June 2019.
FINALLY..!! With a lot of ado, DCT - Domestic Cargo Terminal at Surat Airport started it's operations from 29th January, 2020, bringing an end to along standing need for the city businesses.
However, now giving rise to quickly fulfill the need for an ICT - International Cargo Terminal and give true meaning of an "International Airport", that actually is made capable to handle Cargo facility for world wide destinations.
Ironically. there was a fairly prompt response, within few months of successful operations at DCT, that AAICLAS - the subsidiary of Airport Authority of India, came forward & showed it's eagreness to start work for the ICT & to the etent that, within a short time it was announced that an additional, adjoining space was being earmarked for the ICT.
Only time will tell us that! But for now it is to wait for many months & watch the snailed paced bureaucracy go through the process of planning, tendering, contracting, etc. and hope & pray till it actually materialises.