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Transpacific and Japanese shippers are likely to face a significant shortage of air freight capacity this week after 11 747 freighters were grounded on Saturday.
Japanese airline Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) suspended all operations after government inspectors uncovered “inappropriate” maintenance records at its Narita hub.
In a statement, NCA said it expected the suspension to be in place for “at least one week” while inspections are conducted.
“We found one inappropriate maintenance record concerning lubricating oil supply to the aircraft parts at Narita airport on 3 April,” it said.
“In an abundance of caution, and to ensure the safety of our operation, we decided to temporarily ground all aircraft until all maintenance records have been confirmed appropriate.”
On June 3, the carrier had told customers that “several NCA aircraft are currently on the ground, in order to confirm healthiness of the aircraft, which [is] causing a number of flight cancellations and delays.”
The carrier expected approximately 15% of flights being cancelled and 20% delayed, “for the time being”.
It added: “We will make our best efforts to recover the flight schedule. Further information regarding flight cancellations and delays will be provided to our valued customers from our sales department. We deeply regret and apologise for any inconvenience.”
One air cargo source told The Loadstar the problem was likely the result of “cost-cutting” at the carrier.
The airline has extensive transpacific operations to the US, as well as calls in Europe at Amsterdam, Milan, Frankfurt-Hahn and Luxembourg.
The groundings follow news that the carrier faces an investigation for repeated negligent reporting of damage to its aircraft.
In the first quarter, NCA incorrectly identified damage caused by a bird strike as “minor” rather than “major”, following this with “bungled treatment” of a dent found during a pre-departure check.
Reports claim that it was during the investigation into these incidents that inspectors uncovered the “inappropriate” maintenance records.
The carrier could also find itself facing future disciplinary measures for violating international safety standards.
The suspension comes a little over two months after the launch of a codeshare agreement between NCA and All Nippon Airways for cargo services into the US. It also launched a codeshare agreement with Cargolux in March. It is as yet unclear whether customers’ shipments will be redirected on to NCA’s partner carriers.