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  • Writer's pictureTeam CargoTalk

Making Middle East airports cargo hubs of tomorrow


Airports in the ME have shown potential as cargo hubs. In fact, airports in the GCC region have witnessed a 4.3% growth annually. Cargo volumes are estimated to double in the region. Like their global peers, the airports aspire to overcome project development challenges through effective stakeholder collaborations.


Abigail Mathias


The upsurge in cargo numbers is a reflection of the strategic efforts to promote the travel sectors, and further solidify the GCC’s position as global destinations. According to official reports Sharjah Airport is planning to increase its capacity to 20 million passengers by 2026.

By implementing cutting-edge technologies and solutions that improve daily operations and fostering connectivity to various destinations, the region competes with the best worldwide.

As the global air cargo security landscape continues to evolve, there has been significant increase in the number of stringent rules to keep goods moving safely and efficiently.


Jeffrey Van Haeften, Senior Vice President, Cargo Commercial Worldwide, Emirates SkyCargo


Air cargo serves as the backbone of global trade, offering the quickest way to transport goods

across the globe. With growth of e-commerce leading to consumers expecting their goods to be delivered at speed, time is becoming an essential component of the global supply chain. Manufacturers have also started to shift their operations to Dubai to take advantage of the city’s modern infrastructure, progressive policies, central location, and building local distribution centres to serve their global customer base.


Another opportunity we are exploring is creating long-term contracts with these manufacturers to ensure they can get new goods on the shelves on a weekly basis, an evolution from the previous monthly product cycle.


Under D33, the Dubai government has outlined a bold strategy to double its foreign trade and the opportunity for Emirates SkyCargo is clear in this regard. Over the next decade, we will double our capacity and expand our freighter network with 20 new destinations to keep moving goods to and through Dubai.


Emirates SkyCargo’s world-class facilities have set us apart. With two latest cargo terminals across our dual-hub airport, we can offer transit times of as little as three hours air-to-air. Both airports are near Dubai and are connected 24x7 trucking network in order to facilitate the efficient transit of cargo. With a cargo capacity of 2.3 million tonnes per annum, Emirates SkyCargo facilities offer cool chain capacity, including the world’s largest EU GDP-certified pharma hub to transport the most sensitive of cargo safely and securely.


These facilities are complemented by our vast network. As the cargo arm of the world’s largest global airline, we harness Emirates’ international network and schedule multiple daily flights on wide-body


passenger planes in a bid to provide flexibility and choices for our customers to get their cargo where it needs to go.


Leonard Rodrigues, Head, Revenue Management & Network Planning, Etihad Cargo


The challenge of working with global airports is operational windows. When these operational windows are incompatible with freighter schedules, Etihad Cargo works with customers, partners, and airports to find solutions that ensure cargo can be transported to its final destinations within the required timeframes.


It is this collaboration that has enabled Etihad Cargo build strong relationships with many international airports. Working closely with global airports has allowed it to build operational resilience and mitigate the risk of disruptions.


In case of delays or disruptions, Etihad Cargo offers customers an alternative airport so operations can proceed uninterrupted. Another opportunity presented by working with global airports is taking a holistic approach in partnership with airports to expand and create hubs, enabling Etihad to offer cargo capacity across key routes across the globe.


With the COVID era mostly behind us, Etihad Cargo has recovered its pre-pandemic network and is now focusing on enhancing cargo operations through additional frequencies. Etihad Cargo is now adding new routes and offering more scheduled flights in a order to expand the carrier’s cargo capacity. Also, Etihad Cargo has launched Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions to boost efficiency, digitize and standardize cargo handling across the network, and enhance service levels for the carrier’s customers and partners. The carrier is utilizing AI to improve the quality of operations through the integration of the third dimension to generate ULD load plans to maximize cargo carried on its flights and reduce the risk of needing to offload a shipment due to overbooking or having to load cargo.


Etihad Cargo’s commitment to being the air cargo partner of choice means we take a customer-centric approach and prioritize meeting our partners’ needs. In addition to putting quality and world-class customer service at the forefront of everything we do, the carrier tailors its eight-strong premium product range and evaluates its network to maximize capacity and provide cargo solutions. We also innovate, develop and launch new tools and initiatives to enhance our offering. Our unique product portfolio has enabled the cargo carrier to offer our partners and customers a comprehensive range of products that can be customized to their unique needs.


Ioannis Metsovitis, Senior Vice President, Operations, Hamad International Airport


Hamad International Airport, through our fully automated warehouse facility, has a capacity of 1.4 tonnes million annually. Cargo is the big revenue contributor, and we expect cargo movement to grow. Therefore, as part of Phase B of our expansion plan, which started this January, is the Cargo Terminal 2, which will be a dedicated transfer cargo facility that can handle as many as 3.3 million tonnes of cargo per annum.


This cargo facility will be a safe, smart, and green facility relying heavily on technology and automation for its material handling, and will offer faster storage and retrieval, cargo processing and enable us to offer shorter connection for the growing demand of transit cargo.

The airport continues to include sustainability in its growth strategy by implementing measures to reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and noise pollution. The new Cargo Terminal 2 will be built on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating framework, which is the widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.


e-commerce movement has increased since the pandemic and post pandemic, we saw e-commerce continue to soar. Due to this, there will be more demand and Qatar Airways Cargo has the right fleet for this purpose. With international supply chains, e-commerce under pressure and demand growing for e-commerce, the performance of the fleet is more important than ever and so, Boeing airplanes make up to 90 per cent of our dedicated freighter fleet. Sustainability is a vital pillar in our operations, and we drive sustainability and encourage stakeholders to do so.


Qatar Airways Cargo has adopted progressive and innovative strategies. Our revenue management, commercial network planning and cargo teams work in cooperation to create a successful model since the pandemic. Since cargo has always been a crucial part of the Hamad International Airport’s operations, we continue to assess the market demands and business potential to support additional freighter routes.


Nadia Abdul Aziz, President, National Association of Freight and Logistics


Airports in the Middle East region can play a vital role in making cargo hubs efficient by implementing a combination of measures. Here are ways they can contribute:


Advanced technology: by deploying Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), Internet of Things (IoT), and real-time tracking systems can enhance cargo visibility, reduce handling times, and improve overall efficiency. Smart cargo management systems can help monitor cargo flows.

Integrated logistics: The Middle Eastern airports must collaborate with logistics providers to offer integrated services such as warehousing, distribution, and last-mile connectivity, and reduce transit times.


Operational efficiency: by optimizing ground handling operations, implementing efficient cargo sorting, routing processes, adopting lean management principles, reducing bottlenecks, and optimizing workflows can improve efficiency.


Capacity expansion: expanding airport capacity based on growing demand. Ensuring that infra can handle rising volumes helps prevent congestion and ensures smooth operations.

Training and skill development: invest in training programmes for cargo handlers, customs officials, and logistics personnel to enhance their skills and keep up with industry best practices.


Sustainability: implementing practices, such as using electric ground handling equipment and optimizing energy consumption in order to reduce the environmental impact of the cargo operations, while

potentially lowering cargo and logistics costs.


e-commerce assistance

e-commerce has a significant impact on making cargo hubs more efficient in the Middle East region by driving demand for streamlined logistics, technological innovation, and improved infrastructure.


Here is how the e-commerce contributes to increased efficiency in the cargo hubs. Here are some examples:

1. Increased cargo volume

2.Demand for speed by customers

3. Adopting technology

4. Partnerships

5. Incentives for infrastructure investment


Through these measures, Middle Eastern cargo hubs can become more efficient, attract new businesses, and strengthen their role as essential components of the international trade network.


The trade agreements between countries will further enhance this role and increase the business volumes.


Chaminda Perera, General Manager, Cargo, SriLankan Cargo


Yields within the air cargo industry skyrocketed during COVID. In the present context, however, a drastic yield erosion is being experienced by air cargo carriers globally, including SriLankan Cargo, which is a key player in the regional industry.


On the other hand, there have been some positive developments such as increasing market opportunities in the e-commerce space. SriLankan Cargo offers a secure e-commerce platform for shippers with seamless connections between airports.


Passenger flights all but ceased during COVID, causing constraints for freighters, but with passenger traffic normalizing the situation has steadily improved. The situation has been helped by operators converting passenger aircraft to dedicated cargo aircraft. The need for e-Booking platforms grew during this period creating an effective operating model that continues to enable cargo carriers to enhance market reach and service delivery.


The supply chain of SriLankan Cargo facilitates air transportation of consignments from airport to airport globally swiftly and reliably. Our best-in-class facilities mean that consignments will be secured and conserved from acceptance to delivery. We are in the process of partnering with e-Booking platforms and to introduce a door to door delivery service in specific markets.

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