Cargo Handling

Swissport “flower corridor” facilitates transit of 9,000 tons of fresh roses

Over 9,000 tons of fresh roses travel safely through Swissport’s Flower Corridor, from the fields of the Kenyan highlands to Europe.

The advanced logistics process also takes sustainability to the next level.

Extended shelf life and reduced waste improve the position of Kenyan growers compared to flowers from less sustainable greenhouses in Europe, benefiting both consumers and the planet.

In the world of flower exports, where time sensitivity and freshness are non-negotiable, Swissport takes center stage as a key player in the complex door-to-door logistics.

Every week, 400 to 500 tons of cargo, 85 percent of which is fresh flowers, pass through Swissport’s expansive 10,400 square meter cargo center in Nairobi, Kenya.

This volume increases by 50-55 percent in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. The facility, which is certified by IATA’s CEIV Fresh, meticulously ensures the safe handling of general cargo, perishables, and temperature-sensitive goods, with a particular focus on flowers – a major export from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Edwin Musungu, Head of Cargo Services at Swissport Nairobi, explains: “Every year Swissport successfully handles millions of fresh-cut flowers between January and February, aligning with peak demand during the Valentine’s Day season, which begins in late January.

“For the current year, we anticipate to handle approximately 9,000 tons of flowers, a slight decrease from previous years attributed to aircraft capacity constraints, with carriers prioritizing the lucrative Chinese market due to the overlap with the Lunar New Year in 2024.”

Central to addressing this logistical challenge is Swissport’s Flower Corridor initiative, a cold-chain innovation that has transformed the handling of fresh-cut flowers connecting Nairobi with key locations in Europe such as Liege, Brussels, and Amsterdam, as well as markets in the Middle East and the Far East.

Swissport’s modern air cargo centers allow the speedy handling of perishables in a temperature-controlled environment. The innovative Flower Corridor seamlessly connects farmers, airlines, and forwarders.

Major carriers, including Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, British Airways, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group, China Southern, and Egypt Air, place trust in Swissport’s innovative process and expertise.

Together, they create a collaborative ecosystem aimed at extending the shelf life of delicate flowers by approximately seven days and significantly reducing waste.

“It’s not just about shortening handling times; it’s about mitigating the risk of temperature impact on sensitive cargo,” says Edwin Musungu. “The primary objective is to ensure that every single rose arrives at its destination as fresh as the moment it was harvested, creating consumer happiness and improving the carbon footprint.”

Dirk Goovaerts, CEO Swissport CEMEA and Global Cargo Chair, said: “Since the Flower Corridor was launched, Swissport has been working on perfecting the cold chain solution to provide high-quality services that protect the integrity of fragile flowers and maximize returns for customers.

“We’re excited about the future of air cargo handling in Kenya and are working with local cargo communities as we continue to enhance our solutions.”