Edmonton International Airport is looking to position itself as a distribution hub for North America, citing its geographical advantages, big expansion capacity and efficient overland connectivity to both the United States and Canada.
The international airport in Alberta has also been building and investing in logistics infrastructure, with a focus on building the gateway’s cargo business, according to Alex Lowe, manager for air service development at Edmonton Airport.
“We’ve invested heavily on our logistics infrastructure, so new warehouses, new bonded facilities, we have designated an airport economic zone. The airport itself has invested over US$30 million in cargo infrastructure, and the cargo community has invested over US$100 million in the airport overall,” Lowe said in an interview with Asia Cargo News.
“Our strategy to develop as a preferred cargo gateway continues to go very well.”
In particular, Edmonton Airport, he said, being the largest airport in Canada in terms of land mass, could be an “attractive” place for e-commerce – particularly for inflows from Asia – citing the available space in the airport for large-scale warehousing needs.
Edmonton Airport, Lowe added, has a geographical advantage for connecting Asia to North America. Its rail and road connectivity throughout North America and 24/7 operation also makes processing cargoes more efficient with less congestion issues.
“Geographically, we’re in a very good position to grow our business to and from China and Asia. We’re located in the north of Canada, so for cargo flights traveling from Asia to North America, Edmonton is very much on the way on the trans-polar route,” Lowe said, noting that another advantage of using the airport are the free trade agreements in place and favorable Canadian customs regulations. Edmonton Airport is also a designated free trade zone.
“Edmonton can be a good hub for distribution throughout North America, so from Asia to Edmonton – then distributed throughout North America.”
Lowe noted that aside from Asia, Edmonton Airport is also building its other connections.
“Asia’s a big target of ours, but certainly not the only target area since we’re an international airport. We have strong trade volumes to Europe, the Middle East and throughout North America and South America, but Asia appears to be a strong area of future potential for manufacturing and processing in Canada so it is one area of focus for us,” he said.
Like most air cargo business, Lowe said Edmonton Airport recognizes e-commerce among the growth pillars of air freight, along with pharma and perishables.
Thus, the international gateway is working to take advantage of a CEIV certification next month and building infrastructure to support cold chain.
“We’re focused on the areas that have the best potential for air cargo. So that’s e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, biopharma and perishables as you mentioned, as well as some live animal activities,” Lowe further told Asia Cargo News.
“These are areas that are prime air cargo growth areas, so we believe that our CEIV pharma certification is one very important step. We’ll be the first airport community in Canada to achieve that.”
The airport is also a strategic member of Pharma.aero.
Edmonton Airport has also developed a fresh cargo center, opened last year, which is an airside perishable handling facility, also mapped to CEIV standards.
Amazon’s construction of a fulfilment center over a million square feet right at the airport set to open in 2020 is also expected to boost the gateway’s e-commerce business.
“We recognize that e-commerce is a tremendous opportunity for our business. In Canada, e-commerce is still a small percentage of retail sales but it’s growing very, very rapidly. So, a lot of the carriers that we currently have such as DHL, FedEx and Cargojet are growing because of e-commerce,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lowe also noted the airport is conveniently positioned near both a major rail hub and a major hub for highway connectivity.
It has connections to both major Canadian class one railways – Canadian Pacific Rail and Canadian National Railway – as the first major city that either railroad meets inland from the west coast ports on to Chicago or Memphis, serving a huge chunk of the United States.
Running right in front of the airport is also the Canamex highway, a series of trade lanes that connect Canada, Mexico and the United States. The airport also has a major trucking terminal.
“We’re connected to rail and major highway infrastructure for the movement of goods making Edmonton very well-positioned from a transportation infrastructure perspective,” he said.
Lowe says that the airport is continuously in discussions for tie-ups with Asian carriers. Currently, it plays host to a number of seasonal chartered cargo flights to Asia.
Flight time between Edmonton and Shanghai is about 9.5 hours, while from Hong Kong, it will be around 12.5 hours, according to Lowe. For an Edmonton-Tokyo flight, travel time is nine to 10 hours.
“I think first and foremost, we operate 24/7so we offer an efficient, uncongested airport. We have lots of land for growth and expansion and we have available capacity within our warehousing today and also lots of capacity to build warehouses and logistics infrastructure into the future so facilities can be expanded very easily at our airport,” he said.
By Charlee C. Delavin
Asia Cargo News | Hong Kong