Israeli cargo expands on low-cost growth

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Picture credit: Hilary Faverman

International air travel to and from Israel is expanding, chiefly in the area of low-cost airlines, and this trend is taking cargo with it, writes Stuart Flitton.

The biggest development is at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, which is expected to be classed as a large airport next year when is passes the target of 25 million passengers a year. This milestone is remarkable, given that the airport was classed as small as recently as 2013.

The growth in passenger numbers, spurred by Israel signing an Open Skies Agreement with the EU in 2013, allows Ben Gurion is to be extended by more than 320 acres at a cost of about $2.53 billion.

In December last year the Israel Airports Authority announced that the cargo facilities at Terminal 1 are to be moved to new buildings on empty land to the north of the complex, with a direct link to a new airport entrance. This new cargo area will also contain extra aircraft maintenance services.

Amir Mann of Ami Shinar Architects, in partnership with Moshe Zur Architects has created a masterplan for these changes with designs for a flexible cargo area that could be increased in stages.

The extra passenger traffic has also meant a rise in bellyhold cargo with the number of airlines serving Tel Aviv rising to 140, 12 of which began operating to Israel in the past year.

There are several all-cargo carriers operating to and from Ben Gurion, including DHL Aviation, El Al Cargo, Ethiopian Airlines Cargo, FedEx Express, Korean Air Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Silk Way Airlines and Turkish Airlines Cargo. They fly to the US, the UK, multiple mainland European cities, as well as Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Ethiopia, South Korea, Jordan and Azerbaijan.

The Israeli airline CAL Cargo flies daily between Ben Gurion and its European base in Liege, Belgium.

Last year it increased its fleet to four B747-400 open nose and door freighters after buying the last aircraft owned by Jade Cargo International, the former venture between Lufthansa Cargo and Shenzhen Airlines.

The bulk of El Al’s cargo is bellyhold to its 35 destinations, including the US, Canada, China, Thailand, India, South Africa and most of the main European capital cities or commercial centres on its fleet of Boeing 747s, 777s, 767s, and 737s. El Al Cargo also has a 747-400F, which can carry payloads of 123 tonnes over distances of more than 13,400 km.

A major development expected later this year is the opening of Ramon International Airport north of Eilat, which will replace Eilat City Airport and Ovda Airport and create a new international gateway to southern Israel and the Red Sea.

Facilities for cargo operations at Ramon have been designed but not yet built, however, there is the potential for a major impact on freight transport due to the airport’s size and location. It is about 18 km north of Eilat and will dramatically improve cargo access act to southern Jordan, including the resort of Aqaba, and areas of Wadi Rum and Petra, as well as the Taba area of Sinai in Egypt.

Amir Mann, the owner of Mann Shinar Architects, was the design manager for the project. “We are at the last stages of construction and are at the point of registering with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization),” Mann says. Test flights have already successfully taken place.

The airport’s 3.6 km runway will be able to accommodate the largest aircraft.
“The length of the runway will allow for all flights to Europe and also across the Atlantic to the US, including large cargo aircraft,” Mann says.

His firm has created schematic designs for a cargo terminal. It will be up to air cargo companies to tender for and build a terminal, warehouses and other facilities.

Currently, agricultural products are flown out of the country from Ben Gurion Airport, but the new Ramon airport would allow for swifter and more efficient transport.

Outside working areas had been designed with large coverings to shield workers and goods from temperatures that can reach 40C.

The largest freight forwarding company in Israel is DHL Global Forwarding, with more than 30 per cent of the airfreight market share.

The forerunner to (DGF) Israel was established in 1982 and very quickly became the leading forwarder in Israel. By 2008 the company was bought by DGF.

DGF IL handles more than 200,000 air freight shipments per year, while providing services to various industries with different needs and requirements. Its 2,500 customers include agriculture and pharmaceuticals companies, high-tech and low-tech industries, medical equipment, automotive and advanced security systems with markets worldwide.

“Providing service to our customers, some of which are Israel’s largest companies, requires the utmost dedication to excellence throughout the entire logistics chain,” says DGF IL CEO Rafi Rozalis.