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Tue 1 May 2007 01:18 PM

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Top ten European cargo hubs

Europe has always been at the forefront of the air cargo industry, setting the standards in terms of airports and their adjoining cargo facilities. With growing global demand for enhanced airfreight hubs, Air Cargo Middle East & India profiles the top facilities in the continent.



Brucargo, the dedicated cargo handling area of Brussels Airport, is effectively an airfreight city in its own right. Linked to the passenger aircraft stands via a tunnel under the runways, the hub experienced a cargo handling of 719,560 metric tonnes in 2006.

Currently more than 170 cargo agencies are located at Brucargo, supported by 24/7 customs and a range of security measures. All carriers have a choice of handling companies, cargo agents, trucking companies and airlines, in order for a swift shipment process. Amongst the cargo operators that count Brucargo as their European hub are Saudi Arabian Airlines, Eva Air and Singapore Airlines, and it also hosts operations for mail, courier and express cargo companies.

Plans for a perishables centre are currently underway, with the proposed cold storage and handling facility hoping to be the first of its kind in Europe. The hub's ability to handle special goods in dedicated warehouse circumstances, such as live animals and high value products, is likelt to be a key assets.

Brucargo's geographical location is particularly beneficial for subsequent trucking of goods across Belguim, through access to a dense highway network that includes Europe's largest motorway interchange, situated less than 1km away. It is also within proximity to Brussels city centre, located 15 minutes travelling distance from Brucargo, while Antwerp, one of the largest seaports in the region, is only 30 minutes away, alongside international railway connections.



Handling 1.3 million tonnes of cargo last year, Heathrow's Cargo Village is currently ranked fourth biggest in Europe. Located on the southern side of the airport and to the west of terminal 4, the cargo hub measures approximately 24 hectares and is home to BA World Cargo (BAWC).

BAWC currently has three facilities at Cargo Village, having only opened a US$30 million purpose built handling facility called Premia last year. The latest hub increased BAWC's handling capacity by 67%, mainly used for handling of pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry products, in addition to expanding its express mail operations.

The heart of BAWC's network, however, is Ascentis, a cargo handling facility that has the capacity to handle 800,000 tonnes of cargo a year. Measuring 83,000m2 and featuring the latest technology, it is the core of BAWC's activity.

Complementing Ascentis is PHC, a perishables centre capable of handling 8 million punnets of soft fruit a year.

The facility also possesses labelling, store tray assembly and quality control inspection features.



Following the formation of Centros Logísticos Aeroportuarios S.A. (Clasa), a subsidiary of Aena that promotes the development of air cargo activity in the network of Spanish airports, Madrid-Barajas air cargo centre began business in 1994. Based at Madrid-Barajas International Airport, Spain's most important international and domestic airport, it is located northeast of the city's centre. Barajas serves as a gateway for Europe and the rest of the world, particularly Latin America, to the Iberian Peninsula.

A general service building constitutes up to 95% of the cargo centre, with over 200 companies currently operating there. A second stage of development is planned, which includes the creation of a new logistic area with additional open storage space.

The focus for Madrid-Barajas cargo centre lies on the consolidation of routes from and to Latin America and the creation of new routes to and from the Middle East. This has been symbolised by Clasa's participation in key industry trade fairs and forums.



Frankfurt remains Europe's largest freight airport. Handling a total of 2,127,797 tonnes during 2006, its Cargo City ranks in pole position above any other European airport in terms of cargo traffic.

Rapid and constant growth has contributed to this success, with the hub currently taking ownership of an area formerly used by the US military, which will extend its total land area to 141 hectares.

Designed as an intermodal port, the central location of Frankfurt provides a logistical advantage to operators for any European city, including Eastern Europe. Integrated with Frankfurt airport, it provides direct flight services to over 290 destinations around the world, road connections to all European and regional markets and port access to Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Rotterdam. A proposed rail air cargo station will also add the world's first "on-airport" cargo train station.

The Cargo City itself is divided between north and south facilities. The north covers 47.7 hectares encompassing office space and allowing for 20 aircraft positions. The larger South facility measures 70.3 hectares and consists of a cargo centre, a forwarding centre and office space. Allowing for eight aircraft positions, the expansion will see an increase to 14.

Currently, over 250 airlines, carriers and other service providers operate at Cargo City accounting for a total of over 9000 employees. These include freight forwarders such as DHL-Danzas, Kuehne + Nagel, Nippon Express and Panalpina Welttransport. Facilities are available to cater for express cargo, airmail, animals, perishables and hazardous goods.


International Airport (Milan)

Malpensa International Airport, which is located approximately 45 kilometres west of Milan, has established itself as Italy's leading facility for airfreight operations. Cargo volumes at the airport have continued to grow over the past five years, reaching 419,128 tonnes of freight in 2006. This figure is expected to rise once again in 2007, with 70,946 tonnes of freight already handled in January and February this year, making Malpensa International Airport one of the fast growing cargo hubs in Europe. The airport's status within the logistics industry received a positive boost following the launch of a dedicated ‘cargo city', which includes a fully automated handling system, capable of processing 650,000 tonnes of freight every year. The system, which is subdivided between the cargo city's north and south buildings, is designed to increase efficiencies in the handling (both packing and unpacking) and storage of increasing cargo volumes, making the process faster and more reliable.

The airfreight facility has received a positive response from the various cargo airlines currently operating at Malpensa International Airport, including the likes of Emirates SkyCargo, Etihad Crystal Cargo, Saudi Arabian Airlines Cargo, Qatar Airways, FedEx, Cargolux, Alitalia, DHL and Polet Airlines.


Midlands Airport


The largest pure cargo and mail only airport in the UK, East Midlands Airport (EMA) has been encouraging the development of its cargo community since its formation in 1965. Its central location in the United Kingdom, means the airport possesses proximity to motorway and trunk roads with direct access to every major city in the country.

Experiencing a 5.1% increase in cargo volumes during 2005; handling 292,993 tonnes, the hub is becoming a hotspot for integrators. Currently, UPS accounts for 20% of EMA's tonnage, with other operators including DHL, Icelandair Cargo, Kalitta Air, Lufthansa Cargo and TNT.

Catering for operators is Aviation Soultions and Penauille Servisair, which are equipped to handle aircraft including wide bodied freighters such as the B747F and AN-124 Ruslan. Extensive aircraft engineering facilities are also available at the airport, enabling a wide range of aircraft types to be maintained.

The eastern side of the airport provides four cargo terminals that measure over 225,000 square feet. Cargo Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5 house the hub operations of UPS, TNT and Royal Mail. In the west of the airport, a new complex has been developed through a joint venture by EMA and DHL Aviation. Consisting of a 350,000 square feet sorting facility, a 12,000 square feet loading bay and a 90,000 square feet office block, the venture is the first of its kind in the UK.

The Cargo Village is located a short distance from the eastern cargo apron, which features warehousing and office units of varying size, amounting to 140,000 square feet. Surrounded by large areas of undeveloped airside and landside owned by the Airport Company, the potential for expansion is evident.


Schiphol Airport

The third largest individual cargo airport in Europe and the 16th largest cargo airport worldwide is Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. The airport began its history as a cargo airport primarily dealing with airmail, newspapers, medicine and flowers. Whilst it now handles many more kinds of goods, its focus on the perishables sector remains - one third of the cargo volume handled at Schiphol is perishables such as flowers, fruit, vegetables, fish and medicine.

Last year, Schiphol reached a total handling of 1,559,787 tonnes of cargo. Establishing an extensive investment programme, the addition of a fifth runway in 2003 (the Polerbaan) has provided room for further growth of cargo facilities at the airport until 2010.

The main market for Amsterdam currently stems from Asia, which accounts for 40% of the cargo volume transported to the country.

A combination of the rapid economic growth in Southeast Asia and the liberalisation of the air cargo market in China have led to an increase in full freighter services. Particularly from airlines such as Dragonair, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, and from carriers such as KLM Cargo and Korean Air.

Amsterdam's fame and heritage with the flower market is bonded with Schiphol. The local Aalsmer Flower Auction is the centre of the international flower trade. It deals with 60% of the global flower trade with a considerable volume of this going through the airport.


Bonn Airport

Cologne Bonn Airport has experienced steady growth in cargo volumes over the past decade, with 2006 proving particularly prosperous. The airport handled a record-breaking 698,000 tonnes of freight last year, which marks an increase of 5% compared to 2005.

This upward spiral is expected to continue at full pace this year. Indeed, it is predicted that 740,000 tonnes of freight will be handled by the end of 2007, making Cologne Bonn Airport one of the biggest airfreight hubs in Europe.

To support this growth, US$80.5 million has been allocated for a series of ambitious developments, including a major air cargo centre, equipped with 10,000m

of warehousing space and 4000m2 of office space.

"We have now firmly established ourselves among the top German airports," says Michael Garvens, chief executive officer at Cologne Bonn Airport. "In the past years, we have experienced an enormous boom in terms of growth rates. With the higher performance of last year, together with the higher targets we are aiming at this year, we are on the way to consolidating ongoing, sustainable success."

The cargo section of Cologne Bonn Airport has attracted a strong presence from international heavyweights such as DHL, Kuehne + Nagel, Lufthansa Cargo and UPS. A range of services are currently available 24 hours a day from the airport, including warehouse storage for dangerous goods, refrigerated and deep freeze storage, an animal quarantine station, build-up of aircraft pallets and containers, and pressure chambers for flight stimulation.


International Airport

Cargo flight activity began at Luxembourg International Airport alongside the creation of Cargolux in 1970. Since then the facilities have evolved into the present day CargoCentre, which was built in 1996 for US$170 million is capable of handling over 750,000 tonnes annually.

Last year, the facility recorded a total of 751,645 tonnes of cargo, making it Europe's fifth largest cargo airport. This is supported by computer links between the CargoCentre and local customs, which speed up pre-arrivals, clearances and documentation processes.

Located at the northeast of Luxembourg International Airport, the cargo facility provides a 4000 metre runway suitable for heavily loaded freighter complete with navigation aids to land suitably equipped aircraft in very low visibility. The CargoCentre ramp is able to accommodate eight wide bodied aircraft, with staff routinely handling four B747 freighters at once. Office space was recently increased at the site by 50% to meet demand, with the overall size now standing at 14,300m


Scheduled trucks regularly arrive and leave directly from the CargoCentre through the A1 motorway, connecting the hub with most capital cities in Europe. During peak periods, more than 80 trucks can be handled simultaneously using the 89 loading and unloading docks, nine of which are equipped to handle through Unit Load Devices (ULD).

Airlines currently using CargoCentre include Cargolux, China Airlines and Bluebird, and forwarders include Kuehne + Nagel, Schenker and Nippon Express.

Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Paris)

Charles de Gaulle International Airport, located 25km from the cosmopolitan city of Paris, is the main international airport in France.

In terms of cargo, it currently ranks as the second biggest facility in Europe, with 1,854,950 metric tonnes of freight handled in 2006. Indeed, the local market for express deliveries has experienced a significant boom over the past five years. This has resulted in a constant stream of air cargo companies seeking a presence at Charles de Gaulle International Airport's specialised cargo zone, which consists of warehousing and handling facilities, as well as offices that incorporate the latest technology and security systems. The facilities are also subject to special handling processes, allowing companies to benefit from accelerated customs procedures.

At the moment, the French Post Office conducts a range of sorting and transportation services from the airport, in addition to leading international players such as Air France, DHL, TNT and UPS.

Another courier heavyweight, FedEx, also established an international hub at Charles de Gaulle International Airport in 1999 - it's second biggest facility, after its main headquarters in Memphis. "One of our priorities in selecting a European base was room for expansion. At Charles de Gaulle, there are acres of land available for logistic operators to set up close to our hub," says Bernard Mercier, vice president of FedEx.

As the only major airport in the European region with significant development land still available, the local authorities are considering a variety of expansion plans to utilise this extra space and increase facilities for both cargo and passenger activities. This includes modification work to make Charles de Gaulle International Airport accessible for the new Airbus A380-800F. In addition, a technology system is also in the pipeline, designed to capture and exchange information between different cargo companies operating at the facility.

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