Continuous expansion will allow Liege to keep on growing 24/7

Liege Airport

Liege Airport saw growth of 10 per cent in 2015 and has followed this up with a year-on-year increase of six per cent in January, the hub’s cargo and logistics manager, Bert Selis tells Air Cargo Week (ACW).

Selis was very happy with 2015, as the aim had been to consolidate the five per cent growth seen in 2014. He says: “The significant growth is mostly the result of rising volumes of existing partners and customers. Their choice to operate their freighters out of Liege clearly triggers new opportunities for them.”

“The flexibility to operate freighters in the best possible conditions, day and night, and the handling performance allowing the product to spend the least possible time at the airport are key to success and key growth factors” he explains.

In January, Liege handled over 50,000 tonnes of cargo. Selis says the timing of Chinese New Year means it is hard to draw too many conclusions from this, it is certainly a promising start to the year.

“We always look at January and February as one period. Still, we certainly feel we had a good take off.”

Liege, which operates 24 hours a day with no night restrictions, primarily handles perishables, live animals, pharmaceuticals and express & parcels. It also operates charters  and project cargo such as oil and mining.

Pharmaceuticals are increasingly important, helped by the three handling agents, Aviapartner, Liege Air Cargo Handling Services and Swissport becoming International Air Transport Association Center of Excellence for Independent Validators  (CEIV) certified.

Over the coming years, Liege will be expanding facilities. It is constructing a horse facility, known as ‘The Horse Inn’, and is building 13,000 square metres of warehousing.

The main extension is the ‘Flexport City’ as part of the cargo and logistics area at Liege Airport. The first phase of development became available from December 2015, with 300,000 square metres of land for logistics activities, which should be operational by the first quarter of 2017.

Longer term, when phase two is ready by 2020, and phase three by 2022, Liege will have 850,000 square metres of logistics land directly connected to the airport.

Selis tells ACW: “This area is part of the airport development masterplan and is entirely dedicated to the handling and consolidation of air cargo, pharmaceutical products, perishable products and parcels/e-commerce business.”

The Belgian government has ambitious plans to develop the region around Liege. Selis explains: “The real government masterplan however is the development of 4,700,000 square metres of land around Liege Airport in the coming 15 years.

“Together with Liege’s Trilogiport development, a major inland container terminal operated by DP World, Liege is positioning itself as the cargo hub of the future.”

In the meantime, Selis says though Belgium is competitive, with three airports competing for the same market, and strong competition in neighbouring countries, he says Liege focuses on cargo.

“Liege Airport is open 24/7 and has no night curfew. Airlines are not hampered by slot requirements.

“Liege Airport gives priority to freighter operations, both scheduled and charters. The airport and all the service providers at the airport, have freighter operations as the one and only core business.”

“The scale of the airport guarantees plenty of connections are available by air and road, while the freighter-only approach makes sure transit times are still minimal, compared to passenger airports.”