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Thu 1 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Top ten cargo hubs: Middle East and India

Air cargo hubs in the Middle East and India are shaking up their acts in order to capitalise on the region’s growing airfreight industry.

Abu Dhabi Airport Cargo Village

As well as upgrading the facilities at the airport’s existing cargo terminal, the development will also house stores for air cargo covering an area of 8500m2 on the ground floor, including separate stores for various goods needing to be moved to/from airplanes. A location to load and truck the goods for all sizes of trucks and means of transportation is also planned from a suitable point inside the facility. The 100,000m2 cargo apron will provide enough space to park ten 747-400 Boeing aircraft.

The plans are part of an overall US$6.8 billion expansion project to double the existing area of the airport to an estimated 34km². Development will include the construction of a new super-sized midfield terminal building, along with a second parallel 400m runway and a new aircraft control tower.

With cargo capacity expected to be boosted to one million tonnes when a new cargo terminal is completed by 2009, the airport hopes this figure will continue to rise to up to a staggering two million tonnes. The airport also expects to see a free trade zone developed around the present site, plus a new freight forwarders facility.

Current cargo capacity:

300,000 tonnes

Cargo throughput 2005:

140,000 tonnes

Expected Cargo throughput 2009:

665,000 tonnes

New developments:

New cargo terminal, doubling and expanding of existing airport area, new freight forwarders facility

Bahrain International Airport

Located in the northern Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Bahrain International Airport is fast growing as a significant hub in the Middle East.

The airport has been experiencing buoyant growth in its yearly cargo tonnage, with a recorded 13.2% year on year increase reported for discharged air cargo in 2005, totalling 169,079 tonnes.

Bahrain Airport Services currently operates the airport’s 24 hour 18,000m² cargo centre. In addition specialised freezers, chillers and cold room storages are available to enable perishables cargo to be handled in a controlled environment. Attracting major international freight carriers, including British Airways and Lufthansa Cargo, together with established operators such as DAS and Martinair, the airport is also the Middle East Regional Distribution Centre. DHL’s worldwide network has also designated the airport as a ‘superhub’.

Major development masterplans for the airport include the US$350 million three-phase expansion and refurbishment programme launched last year, which will more than double the size of the terminal building, increase the number of aircraft stands from 46 to 64 and double the number of bridges from seven to 14. There will also be a new air cargo/logistics facility and aircraft maintenance complex.

Other technological plans include connecting the entire area of cargo operations by wireless network and to introduce RFID and barcode technology to manage consignments and documents throughout the

cargo complex.

The project, which is scheduled to start in 2008 and be completed by 2010, will also increase the airport’s passenger capacity to up to 15 million travellers a year.

Cargo throughput 2005:

169,079 tonnes

New developments:

Major refurbishment and expansion of airport, cargo operations connected by wireless network, RFID and barcode technology, new air cargo/logistics facility, new aircraft maintenance complex.

Dubai Logistics City (DLC)

With such tremendous potential, one cannot help but go the extra mile to describe the cargo facilities promised from this potential star of the Middle East air cargo industry.

Based in the Jebel Ali area of Dubai, Dubai Logistics City (DLC) is waving its own ambitious banner as the world’s largest freighter airport and logistics hub.

As the first phase of what is promised to be the worlds’ largest international airport, Dubai World Central, the US$30 billion airport has been specifically designed to handle in excess of 12 million tonnes of cargo annually in up to 16 dedicated terminals.

This new facility will be 10 times the size of the current Dubai International Airport and Dubai Cargo Village combined. The airport will have six parallel runways all of 4.5km in length and separated by a minimum of 800 metres and a 92 metre high control tower, fully equipped with the latest in avionics and navigational aids.

The $547 million phase one grading of DLC is now complete with contracted partners able to move on-site into parcelled plots, which will eventually encompass the construction of common facilities and infrastructure. Grading of phase two, which also includes Dubai World Central International Airport, has already begun ahead of schedule.

Covering 25km2, DLC will have its own aviation area designed to meet the specific needs of air cargo providers. Other facilities at DLC will include a dedicated cluster for specialised aviation industry suppliers and offering direct apron access and a dedicated labour village accommodating up to 40,000 workers in purpose-built surroundings.

It will also include office buildings, land plots for dedicated industrial business, trading companies, distributors, logistics service providers and forwarders, shared facilities such as warehouses and modern air-side cargo handling facilities.

The cargo facility is expected to be up and running in the first quarter of 2008.

Eventual annual cargo capacity:

12 million tonnes of cargo

New developments:

Six parallel runways, dedicated cluster for specialised aviation industry suppliers, labour village and airside cargo handling facilities.

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai

As possibly the largest airport in India benefiting from the growth in the airfreight industry in the region, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s provisional figures demonstrate a steady growth of 5.74% in terms of cargo handled, from 273,265 tonnes in 2004-2005 to 288,960 tonnes in 2005-2006 provisional figures. Currently the airport handles on an average around 403 flights, 36,000 passengers and 892 tonnes of cargo per day.

Established in 1977, the Cargo Terminal at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai has been used for handling import, export and transhipment cargo. With cargo handling operations spread over an area of 108,684m2, the airport’s current facilities include an exclusive cargo apron, allowing five wide-bodied aircrafts to be parked simultaneously. With perishables constituting 40% of total air cargo, the airport also has a centre for perishable cargo, spread over 2484m2, with capacity of 36 aircraft pallets, commissioned in 2003.

With the management of the airport transferred from government to the public-private consortium Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), a US$1.26 billion seven-year capital investment plan has been put together to propel the airport firmly into the increasingly competitive global aviation industry. According to MIAL, Mumbai airport handled nearly 17.7 million passengers and 490,000 tonnes of cargo last year.

Further short term plans for its cargo facilities include the modernisation and updating of its entire cargo handling process, including handling, storage and retrieval. MIAL’s ambitious future plans for the airport include a second runway, a new cargo complex, a new terminal for both international and domestic flights and the possibility of a dedicated terminal for cargo operations.

Current annual cargo capacity:

490,000 tonnes of cargo

Cargo throughput 2005:

288,960 tonnes

Expected Cargo throughput 2010:


New developments:

A second runway, a forthcoming cargo complex, a new terminal for both international and domestic flights.

Fujairah International Airport

Expectations are high for this ambitious emirate, despite often being overshadowed by its more publicised neighbours. Whilst showing a 13.3% decline in cargo throughput to 22,129 tonnes in 2005, Fujairah International Airport is confident that a change in fortune is just around the corner, with a plan to increase air cargo throughput to at least 100,000 tonnes per year within the next five years.

At the heart of this confidence lies its burgeoning tourist industry and positioning as one of the world’s major fuel bunkering locations. The Fujairah Free Zone Authority (FFZA) is also planning to create its own logistics park, promising to provide competition with projects such as Dubai Logistics City by offering companies cheaper terms and conditions, plus standard tax exemptions.

Fujairah International Airport’s growth prediction is further enhanced by the construction of a new six lane highway, which will cut travel time to Dubai to forty minutes.

Future developments for the airport include a new apron at the airport, working towards doubling the number of planes handled by the airport to 30.

Linked to this, a new cargo village is also at the initial stages of planning, promising to more than double its current annual cargo capacity of 40,000 tonnes to meet the airport’s annual target of 100,000 tonnes by 2011. Alongside the expanded cargo village, the construction of a new air traffic control tower is expected.

At present, airfreight accounts for around 90% of the airport’s current movements. According to the airport, the appeal for its cargo clients lies in Fujairah’s combination of competitive rates, responsiveness and availability of capacity.

Current cargo capacity:

40,000 tonnes

Cargo throughput 2005:

22,129 tonnes

Expected Cargo throughput 2011:

At least 100,000 tonnes

New developments:

New apron doubling aircraft handling to 30, new cargo village, upcoming logistics park.

Sharjah International Airport

Proud of its reputation as the ‘Crossroad of the South’, Sharjah International Airport is all set to give

its UAE counterparts a run for their cargo money.

Experiencing a growth in the movement of import and export cargo, the SIA’s Freight Centre handled 411,697 tonnes of cargo in the first nine months of 2006, a significant rise from the 349,259 tonnes handled during the same period of 2005.

The airport’s cargo facilities include 60 parking slots for aircraft, large apron space and warehousing capacity. It also includes the latest navigation systems and an extended runway length of 4050 metres.

With five cargo terminals covering 32,000m2 of floor area, the airport can handle 14 narrow bodies or 10 wide bodied aircraft, or a combination of the two. There are two further cargo aircraft parking areas, with the capacity for up to 16 narrow bodied aircraft. Sharjah International Airport also boasts ‘superior’ cargo handling equipment, enabling two aircrafts to exchange their entire loads simultaneously. This operates by the aircrafts parking next to each other on the cargo apron and having their cargo directly ‘rollered’ on and off each other.

With the continued increase in traffic growth, the Freight Centre has recently added two new parking bays, as well as the addition of two new 4 pallet-trucks to the trucking fleet. As a result of growing demand for the import of meat for local consumption, plans are also underway to construct a hall with built in chillers and modern equipment to inspect the imported foodstuff, in addition to the 10 chillers and freezers already available for the export of perishable goods to the region.

Cargo throughput (Jan-September) 2005:

349,259 tonnes

Cargo throughput (Jan-September) 2006:

411,697 tonnes

New developments:

New parking bays in Freight Centre, plans to construct chiller hall for perishables.

Dubai International Airport

Since 1991, all air cargo operations at Dubai International Airport have been handled through the Department of Civil Aviations’ Dubai Cargo Village (DCV). Due to the phenomenal air traffic growth in Dubai, DCV has seen an impressive cargo throughput growth of an annual average of 15%. The increasing year by year air cargo demands have meant that the airport has had to embark on a series of expansion projects to increase its freight handling capacity.

With a present capacity for up to 1.25 million tonnes per annum, this is expected to rise to an impressive two million tonnes by the year 2010 and 2.7 million tonnes by 2018.

The main cargo building has a ground area of 24,985m2, handling area of 8300m2, space of 7800m2 and storage capacity of 7420 tonnes. The building leads to an apron where cargo aircrafts can load and unload up to four B747 freighters, or a combination of two B747s and three narrow-bodied freighters at a time.

The airport is currently extending its significant cargo handling facilities in a phased expansion project, which includes the new multi-storey Mega Cargo Terminal. Due for completion at the end of the year, Cargo Mega Terminal 1 will be used by Emirates SkyCargo and promises to add an impressive extra 1.2 million annual tonnes of cargo handling capacity to the airport’s growing portfolio.

Other developments include the Hall B Express Mail Centre and the Flower Centre, the latter with a handling capacity due to exceed 300,000 metric tones of product throughput per annum.

Depending on actual growth and revised projections, it is proposed that by the year 2010 the existing (original) cargo terminal be demolished and replaced by the final phase of the mega terminal. The expected throughput capacity at the end of this period will be 2,700,000 tonnes per annum. The Mega Terminal will eventually be able to handle a staggering estimated 4 million tonnes of freight annually by the 2018.

Current annual cargo capacity:

1.25 million tonnes

Cargo throughput 2005:

1,333,014 tonnes

Expected Cargo throughput 2010:

2.7 million tonnes

New developments:

Mega Cargo Terminal, flower centre, Mail and Courier Centre.

Bangalore International Airport

Owned and operated by Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), one of the first private-public owned and operated airport in India aims to create a hub of activity in the region and set new standards for the Indian aviation industry.

Increasing interest in Bangalore as a hub for freight activity comes from the region’s quickly expanding IT industry, leading the airport to turn to privatisation in order to develop its facilities to international standards. The consortia selected to manage the airports cargo operation, Singapore Airport Terminal Services Limited (SATS) / Air India and Bobba Group / Menzies Aviation, have the task of designing, constructing, financing and operating the facilities. Investing approximately US$33.7 million, the airport promises to be a strong leading contender for the growing airfreight industry in India.

Unfortunately, the promising project met with much delay due to wrangles for operational ownership, with construction of the new site at Devanahalli (around 40km from Bangalore) beginning in 2005. The $321 million airport is expected to open in April 2008, whereby all commercial traffic will move out of the existing airport. In light of the potential traffic growth, BIAL recently upgraded its plans to increase the terminal size and number of aircraft stands to 37, and to add new taxiway layouts and landside infrastructure.

The current cargo capacity of the airport is 140,000 tonnes per year, but this is predicted to increase to 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes per year by 2012. Cargo handling facilities at the new airport will eventually include extended air cargo terminals, cold storage facilities for horticultural products.

Current annual cargo capacity:

140,000 tonnes

Cargo throughput 2005:

Conservative estimate of 118,378 tonnes

Expected Cargo throughput 2012:

250,000 to 300,000 tonnes per year

New and Future developments:

Overhaul of all airport facilities, new site, extended air cargo terminals, cold storage facilities for horticultural products.

Indira Ghandi International Airport, New Delhi

Another major Indian airport to benefit from privatisation is the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Established in 1986, the existing cargo terminal at the airport has recently witnessed an impressive steady growth of 14.92% in air cargo handle, from 237,923 tonnes in 2004-2005 to 273,410 tonnes in 2005-2006 provisional figures.

The airport’s current, if outdated, facilities include an exclusive cargo apron where six wide-bodied aircrafts can be parked simultaneously and houses one of the first of its kind perishables cargo centre in India, commissioned back in 1998.

Indira Gandhi International Airport is one of the four metro airports being privatised as part of government’s plan to give its growing aviation industry a boost towards world class terminals and facilities. The ensuing revamp is due to be led by a consortium Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), which includes India’s GMR Group in collaboration with German operator Fraport, Eraman Malaysia, the state-run airports operator and infrastructure firm IDFC. DIAL’s modernisation master plan, submitted last year, includes significant improvements to the airport’s existing infrastructure, a new integrated domestic/international passenger terminal.

Expecting a huge growth in traffic and cargo demands, DIAL believes that the annual freight volume of the airport will reach 2.1 million by 2026.

Current cargo capacity:


Cargo throughput 2005:

Provisional 273,410 tonnes

Expected Cargo throughput 2026:

2.1 million tonnes

New developments:

Improvements to the airport, new integrated domestic/international passenger terminal.

Doha International Airport

Doha International Airport revealed its plans for a new billion dollar airport to be built east of the current one in 2003, in order to cope with its increasing passenger and cargo traffic demands. Construction on the new 22km New Doha International Airport (NDIA) began in 2004, and includes two parallel runways and an estimated capacity to handle and process nearly 12 million passengers every year when completed in 2015. In the meanwhile, the existing airport itself is undergoing a major upgrading.

The cargo terminal in NDIA will be located in the midfield area, and promises to have a capacity for processing 750,000 tonnes of cargo per year. Confident that these figures will lead to the new airport soon being to be placed amongst the twenty largest cargo terminals in the world, ambitious future plans aim to see it handling an impressive 2 million tonnes of cargo in 2015.

Facilities at the cargo terminal will include an automated storage and retrieval system, capacity to accommodate up to 1000 Unit Load Devices (ULDs). Other major factors include ‘world class’ high-bay storage areas for import and export cargo, work stations for make-up and breakdown of ULD loads, and storage areas for special cargo.

The terminal will boast a 15 metres clear height inside its building to allow for the efficient stacking of storage and a 32 truck-loading facilities. It will also be a world class hub for the country’s ambitious expanding airline, Qatar Airways.

Expected cargo capacity in 2009:

750,000 tonnes

Expected cargo throughput 2015:

2 million tonnes when new airport complete

New developments:

New cargo terminal, new parallel runways, efficient automated storage and retrieval systems’.

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Prof Philbert Suresh 12 years ago

While giving statistics it is important to indicate the source for reliability and justify the claim to be one of the ten cargo hubs in the world. So could the writer show reliable statistics for top ten cargo hubs?