Aerial view of Chicago O'Hare © Thomas Barrat

Air cargo organisations are urging the US government to inject up to $5bn more to tackle an “infrastructure crisis”.

The Airforwarders Association (AfA) and National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America are calling for an “air cargo support fund” in a white paper surveying the economic importance of the sector.

Executive director of the AfA Brandon Fried told The Loadstar: “Without the funds, on-airport cargo facilities will have insufficient capacity to accommodate forecasted growth.

“Roads leading to, from and within airport cargo areas will be congested, causing failing levels of service. Carbon emissions will increase substantially, while cargo throughput efficiency will decrease, making shipping by air slower and more expensive.

“And shipments of time-sensitive products, including pharmaceuticals, perishables and urgent supply chain parts, will be threatened.”

US gateways were particularly hard hit by the pandemic and had been left with “lagging financials”, Mr Fried said with JFK, LAX and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) among airports most impacted, especially as JFK and LAX have been able to make little investment in cargo facilities in the past 20 years.

Mr Fried said LAX had now turned to the private sector for a planned billlion-dollar, two-million sq ft expansion.

“On a project that size, cost recovery will be folded into the facility’s rent structure, but if proposed government funding can offset construction, there’d be considerable savings for tenants and users without impacting potential airport revenues,” he noted.

President of Webber Air Cargo Michael Webber told The Loadstar part of the problem facing many of these US gateways was that they had no land available for expansion.

“Unfortunately, because of this, it’s not as simple as just adding capacity, so improvements must be made in small increments. There’s no ‘empty chair’ to move tenants into while their buildings are demolished,” said Mr Webber.

“Moreover, decades of piecemeal development have often left parcels of land that can no longer accommodate next-generation freighters or even 52 ft trucks airside.”

Over recent years, ORD has seen the lack of available land and accessibility problems become more pronounced, with its neighbouring gateway, Rockford, building a name for itself, handling Amazon flights and others.

A source said that Chicago airport often struggled with unexpected peaks, leaving its handlers forced to use transfer sheds in place of off-airport warehousing to accommodate excess volumes. And while the airport has opened several off-airport warehouses, with others in development, the source said this had not resolved the situation.

“If you were to give me a bag of money to solve the cargo problem at O’Hare, it would involve modernising buildings that are centrally located.

To find out more on US investment, listen to this clip from the latest Loadstar Podcast of Stephen Edwards, CEO of Virginia Port Authority on how to fix US supply chains.


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