The Cargo gateway to North America and beyond
28 March 2023
Mammen Tharakan, Director, E-Commerce, Cargo & Aviation Real Estate, Air Service & Business Development, at Edmonton International Airport (YEG), provides his insight into evolving cargo growth at the airport, its role geographically as a logistics hub and the sustainable initiatives that are shaping its future.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is the largest northernmost city in North America. Its strategic location is rapidly being recognised internationally as a key multimodal global logistics hub and vital trade corridor for Canada.
Edmonton International Airport (YEG) is one the closest major North American airports to many parts of Asia by circumpolar routes. Interestingly, the Edmonton to Beijing flight path is one the shortest of any major city in North America, and there is only about nine minutes difference in flight time from Edmonton to Hong Kong or Shanghai compared to Vancouver.
As we look at using the earth’s curvature to improve supply chain efficiencies, the flight paths between YEG and many locations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa offer significant savings of time and distance.
YEG is also rapidly becoming a vital entry point into all of North America and Latin America. The Edmonton region is an inland port known as Port Alberta – where air, rail, pipelines and roadways converge within a Foreign Trade Zone.
Continuous cargo growth
From 2009-2019, cargo at YEG increased by 18%. Even during times of worldwide decreases in cargo volumes, our airport experienced a steady uptick in the movement of goods.
When the pandemic hit, passenger flights slowed, but cargo volumes accelerated. This was remarkable as there was a reduction of belly-cargo capacity associated with passenger flights. 2020-2021 were record-setting years, with cargo tonnage increasing by 13% over the pre-pandemic baseline. YEG became a critical hub in the movement of masks, medical supplies and vaccines and e-commerce.
Forward thinking, future ready
Years of planning prepared us to be ready, willing and able to handle increasing cargo demands, and when the pandemic hit, our airport was well prepared to facilitate the movement of essential goods.
We spent more than a decade strategising for air cargo development and investing in real estate to service increasing global supply chain demand. Our major focus was developing YEG’s Cargo Village to create a central hub to consolidate transport operations into one location.
Cargo Village has become a logistics utopia where businesses that provide various services within the transportation sector work in a collaborative ecosystem. This collaboration results in shorter transfer times and wait times and reduces handling while improving overall safety and quality of services.
YEG’s Cargo Village is also home to the cold storage Fresh Cargo Centre, a 465m2 facility with temperature control from +25°C to -90°C and direct airside access. YEG is the only airport community in Canada and the most northern airport in the world to be IATA CEIV certified, allowing us to meet the highest standards for handling perishables and temperature sensitive cargo.
Collaborate to innovate
YEG is blessed with the largest land area of any airport in Canada, allowing for extensive sprawling growth. Cargo Village is part of a large aerotropolis on YEG’s massive land mass, the Airport City Sustainability Campus.
Airport City is one of only two aerotropolis’ in Canada and has attracted CAN$1.5bn in investment over the past nine years. The campus currently houses an array of companies ranging from transportation, manufacturing, technology development, sustainability, tourism and hospitality.
Airport City is also a living lab for accelerating the development, testing, implementation and commercialisation of emerging clean technologies, including those used in the cargo and logistics industry. It is home to YEG’s hydrogen hub development, Canada’s first consumer-facing hydrogen hub, and is creating a model for decarbonising transportation and logistics.