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Volga-Dnepr is moving closer to its “cargo supermarket” concept, by which it would offer its full range of shipments, from generators to small packages.

Its latest move, an MoU with Alibaba’s logistics arm, Cainiao, to develop a cross-border shipment network, will cement its e-commerce business.

Cainiao Smart Logistics Network will form a partnership with the Russian air freight group to develop different projects: Volga-Dnepr Group will guarantee access to its network and 41-aircraft strong fleet, while Cainiao will make the group a ‘preferred carrier’.

The pair will also develop an optimal scheduled route network in Asia, Europe and Russia, which will include improving processes such as ground handling and road feeder services.

It is likely that the majority of the Cainiao business will feed Volga’s AirBridgeCargo subsidiary and could also find it way onto partner Cargologicair’s network.

James Zhao, general manager of Cainiao Network, said the agreement would help “beef up the air freight capability of our global smart logistics network, enabling merchants and brands – especially small and medium enterprises – to access more efficient cross-border logistics services”.

Volga-Dnepr, known for its ability to fly oversized cargo, has been increasingly interested in e-commerce.

It is hoping to launch CargologicGermany next year, which will field a fleet of 737s for intra-Europe e-commerce, and it already operates 737s domestically in Russia under its Atran brand.

Robert van de Weg, vice president sales and marketing for the group, told The Loadstar recently e-commerce was “a plus because it is multi-directional”.

He added: “This is a market niche we believe is interesting and growing, and that’s the long-term vision.”

And last week he noted the group was looking for more partnerships, particularly in e-commerce.

“We are still depending largely on multinational forwarders. However, it is our strategy to diversify our customer base more and, hence, we are looking to enhance relationships, for example with WCA network, which is known to be strong in its local markets and has an increasing presence in areas such as e-commerce.”

Volga-Dnepr said it had seen a 6% increase in cross-border shipments in the first 11 months of this year.

“The future of air freight is in the e-commerce sector, with customers becoming more tech-savvy, internet-driven and demanding in terms of delivery services,” said Tatyana Arslanova, vice-president strategic management.

“The key to success in this lucrative market lies in the ability provide fast, fully digitalised and transparent services with the support of reliable partners, such as Cainiao Network.”

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