20230811 - KM - Liege

Cargo tonnage on all major airfreight lanes saw a downward trend as the Eurozone sank into recession, according to Liege Airport in Belgium.

Liege (LGG) is a major gateway for cargo in the EU and has seen volumes decrease this year in light of soft demand combined with a recessionary environment in the region, Frédéric Brun, head of commercial cargo and logistics, told The Loadstar.

“All markets are down, especially Japan, South America and Asian markets such as China.”

He sees ongoing transfer of cargo from air to sea, where there are low rates and lots of capacity, and added: “Volatile markets like perishables and flowers from Africa have also been also impacted.”

However, Mr Brun is optimistic about the rest of the year. He expects some positive figures, based on market share growth and new cargo airlines moving operations to LGG. He said new airlines had enabled the airport to maintain certain levels of volumes.

In March, Air Canada Cargo started B767 freighter ops from Toronto, with a stop in Halifax, becoming the first freighter-only destination for the airline. In June, Swissport and ALS Airlines Belgium extended an agreement covering air cargo services, including ramp handling and warehousing in support of ASL’s cargo fleet that includes a B747-400ER with nose- loading capability.

Last year, Swissport handled over 21 weekly flights and over 140,400 tonnes of cargo for ASL Airlines Belgium at Liege.

Mr Brun reckoned India and China might be potential bright spots in the coming months, while Brazil and South America might also see some movement in volumes in Q4.

Meanwhile, Challenge Group, having a base at LGG, said tonnage had risen from 78,000 tonnes in 2012 to 282,000 tonnes last year. The group invested in a 42,000 sq metre facility across its three divisions – Challenge Handling, Challenge Airlines BE and Challenge Technic.

Challenge reportedly handles an average of 4,042 flights and 43,400 truck movements annually from LGG and claims to be a European leader for cargo like animals (beyond horses) pharma, cars, dangerous goods, oversized cargo and concert equipment. According to data from planespotters.net, Challenge Airlines BE has five aircraft based there – three B747-400Fs and two B767Fs, all parked.

LGG, along with its ground handling agents hs established additional “speed gates” for the direct transfer of intact ULDs from airside to landside and vice versa, and Mr Brun said that by the end of the year, construction on a new development called Cargo City West would begin. With 255,000 square metres of warehousing, it will be the base for further growth for forwarders and logistics companies at LGG and is expected to open in Q4 24.

“We are also finalising a new airport masterplan to further develop the airport until 2040, which will be officially presented in Q4,” Mr Brun revealed.

He spoke of several new cargo operators and forwarders moving into LGG, drawn by the airport’s “flexible freighter-only strategy.” In addition, increasing restrictions at other major EU cargo hubs made Liege an attractive option, he claimed.

Indeed, some cargo hubs are reporting challenges in obtaining skilled labour, a dilemma exacerbated by industrial action at some airports. However, Mr Brun said the situation at LGG was “far more favourable”.

He added: “We don’t see any labour challenges, primarily because we have a training facility here. The Liege Airport Academy provides solutions for the whole cargo community and the platform actively supports the development of additional skilled labour.”

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