French logistics property developer APRC has unveiled a €150m project to transform Albert Picardy Airport, near Amiens, into one of Europe’s leading all-cargo airports.

To date, the airport’s air cargo activity has consisted of charter flights operated by Airbus’s fleet of Beluga freighters carrying aircraft parts manufactured at a nearby plant to St Nazaire, in western France.

APRC group director of development and general manager Jorge Hernandez, whose career has included spells at Geodis and FM Logistic, said: “One day I saw one of Airbus’s Belugas flying over the Amazon warehouse in Boves [near Amiens] and wondered where it was landing. That’s how I discovered Albert-Picardy Airport.

“It is ideally located in northern France, and within a 300km radius we can reach 80 million of Europe’s wealthiest consumers. ”

APRC is planning four logistics-related facilities at the airport, covering 140,000 sq metres, comprising a business campus and a broad range of activities, including the transport and distribution of industrial and consumer goods, express delivery/courier and door-to-door management services, full or part aircraft chartering, packaging solutions and customs clearance.

Depending on planning permission, construction work is earmarked for the first quarter of 2024, later than initially planned, “the delay being due to environmental issues that are being resolved”, Mr Hernandez explained.

“We are hoping to sign-up the first customers end-2023/early 2024, with the full build-out of the project scheduled for 2025-2027, creating 600-800 direct jobs and 60-100 indirect jobs.”

The current length of Albert Picardy’s runway is 2,200 metres, but APRC’s project includes provision to increase this to 3,600 metres “to accommodate transcontinental aircraft”.

Asked whether APRC was already in negotiations with potential clients like airlines, 3PLs, freight forwarders, express integrators and e-commerce specialists, Mr Hernandez said: “We have received several letters of intent, but the process is subject to confidentiality, so we can’t say more at this stage.”

However, a Kuehne + Nagel spokesperson questioned the potential of Albert-Picardy Airport as an air cargo hub and told The Loadstar: “In our view, since the airport would only be for freighters – with belly capacity returning to Paris-CDG in a post-pandemic scenario – Albert-Picardy would compete with Liège and Maastricht, which are both more centrally located in relation to Europe’s most populous regions.

“That being the case, it would mainly serve the French market, and there the challenge would be to generate enough air cargo volume to support frequency schedules.

“We think it unlikely that there would be a strong demand for another ‘Liège-type’ all-cargo airport.”

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