Aviation container pooling company Unitpool was a natural fit for Brambles. It met the company’s strategic goal of diversifying its product exposure, providing an entry into a sector that is growing strongly as airlines look to make their operations more efficient. Brambles announced the acquisition of Unitpool for US$35 million in August 2010.
Unitpool's Angela Ferreira and Graham Smith, Manager Quality Assurance and Safety;
Handlex, at Toronto Airport, Canada.
Founded in 2002, Unitpool owns and manages a fleet of more than 42,000 unit-load devices (ULDs), which its airline customers use to transport cargo, baggage and mail. It services more than 300 airports and is the only non-airline-controlled ULD management company.
With approximately 1 million such containers in circulation today, most of which the airlines own and manage themselves, and a trend to cut costs by outsourcing, Unitpool’s independence, 365-day a year management and global supervisory network, place it uniquely to assist.
Prior to Brambles’ ownership, Unitpool’s organic sales growth was already more than 10% per annum — before the impact of sales to new customers. Since Brambles’ ownership, Unitpool has been able to draw on the expertise of CHEP, the world’s largest equipment pooling organisation, and pursue growth with greater confidence.
In the 2011 financial year, Unitpool established contracts with carriers including Bahrain’s Gulf Air, the USA’s National Air Cargo, France’s Corsair, Scandinavia’s SAS and Portugal-based charter operator Hi Fly.
One of Unitpool’s existing customers, Canadian operator Air Transat, signed a five-year extension to its contract with Unitpool in November 2010 — and is beginning to benefit from Unitpool’s innovation in the area of lightweight containers.
Under the extended agreement, Unitpool is transitioning Air Transat’s stock of containers to a lightweight solution. These containers, made from composite materials, weigh up to 18 kilograms less than the standard aluminium container.
For an aircraft flying 4,000 hours per annum, lightweight containers can save airlines between US$98 and US$162 in jet fuel costs, per kilogram of weight saved, based on fuel costs reported by the International Air Transport Association between June 2010 and June 2011.
Other innovations at Unitpool will include the introduction of speciality units, such as temperature-controlled containers, as well as other products and services.
Brambles is now consolidating its service offering in the aviation sector through the acquisition of New Zealand-based JMI Aerospace,  in June 2011. This acquisition complements Unitpool’s operations and provides the business with additional service, design, repair and maintenance capabilities, enabling better control of the repair process in terms of economics and quality.
It will also enable the business to offer repair and logistics services for airlines that do not yet outsource their ULD management, and to explore opportunities in pooling and managing other aviation units, such as galley carts.
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