Animal transportation is growing business: David Robson
Equine shipping companies and airlines are investing in specialised facilities to carry horses and other live animals
The IATA Live Animals Regulations (LAR) provides the minimum standard for transporting live animals by air, and IATA member airlines are bound by IATA Resolution 620 to comply with its principles and provisions for the acceptance and carriage of live animals in full aircraft loads.
Animal transportation is the intentional movement of animals by transport. Common categories of animals transported include horses for racing, breeding and other competition horses, zoological animals, pets relocation, farming animals such as cattle, sheep and other livestock including camels.
With over two decades of experience in horse transportation and pioneers in animal transportation, Equitrans has more or less seen it all and done it all. The past 20-years has seen the Equitrans team coordinate the transport of over 50,000 horses and other animals to over 100 countries around the globe. Logistics Update Africa spoke to David Robson, Managing Director, Equitrans on the outlook and challenges. Edited Excerpts.
What are the key challenges for transporting animals, especially in the post-pandemic period?
Transporting live animals, and especially horses, offers many challenges in normal times, whilst during and post-pandemic, the challenges faced by the team reached a completely new level, effectively forcing us to innovate by the hour. This tested us but in many ways made us sharper and more resilient in a business that is demanding in itself and requires meticulous planning for a smooth operation.
With over 20-years in the equine shipping business, Equitrans has seen its fair share of disruption in the industry: from the fallout of 9/11 and the financial collapse of 2008/9 to regional equine disease outbreaks. Yet, nothing really prepared us for the instantaneous worldwide impact that Covid-19 and its aftermath would wreak across many industries worldwide.
We have had contingency plans for years, which is required in this industry, yet we never imagined a disruptor of this extent to occur. What has always made us most effective as a team is always having a “Plan A… B, and even C” on hand as there are so many dynamic and unforeseen factors that require managing as we go.
So, in this regard, Covid-19 and the aftermath hit hard but we had experienced equine disease outbreaks, quarantines and vaccinations to manage these outbreaks that were similar but smaller in nature involving horses. So, we adapted to some of it better than those working in other industries as we had a form of understanding on the restrictions and quarantine being applied.
We were forced to adapt to changes quickly which included working from home, flight grooms trapped by new travel regulations, and, of course, the significant fluctuations in flight availability and costs. While many of these Covid-19 related factors have since been resolved, we are still faced with increased costs, staffing issues in some quarantine facilities, regulation changes to border inspection posts, and the discontinuation of certain flights.
Yet, it's not all been bad. It’s been good to see increased freighter service volume even as passenger services and belly capacity become available.
Even with Covid a distant memory, our dynamic and constantly evolving industry still regularly witnesses changes in everything from the vet preparation to required blood testing and vaccinations, the transit and import requirements, quarantine and airlines. Each element must tie into a specific time frame, and if any part is out of sync, it forces changes throughout the entire plan.
Of course, it goes without saying that containing the costs when things change or do not go to plan is one of our biggest challenges with live animals - meaning, consistent and significant attention to detail throughout the entire process is required, and the Equitrans team maintains a “hands on approach” with all shipments.
How have regulations changed over the last two decades for animal transport?
There is a constant development of live animal transport regulations, and things continue to improve for better welfare of animals and mitigating disease risks to countries. We have evolved from transporting horses on narrow body aircrafts with open top stalls, to enclosed customised stalls for horses on wide body freighters. This has become a plus as we can fly horses into airports closest to their destination and reduce stress through prolonged transit times and road haulage.
The GCC region has a heritage and is passionate about its equine industry and is continuously investing and expanding the industry. We have seen, and continue to see, growth across the various equestrian disciplines with bigger and better international events hosted year on year.
Equitrans is a company that specialises in the movement of horses, live animals and pet relocation. The movement of horses is far more specialised and has a lot more requirements and protocols to consider compared to relocating pets, which, in general, is less complicated.
Over the years, the volumes of exotic animals transported have grown and these are mainly for conservation projects, zoo parks and conservation-breeding programmes.
For all large animals, horses and exotics, we have to use the main deck capacity. Depending on the route and numbers, we operate charters, part charters and scheduled services.
The Covid-19 pandemic saw pet ownership grow significantly as people craved companionship during lockdown. For us, this has created a positive outlook in pet relocations - both domestic and overseas.