Nestled between major highways and rail lines, home to a major oil and gas industry, and serving as a gateway to the North, the perfect storm of factors have combined to make Edmonton a hub for the cargo transportation industry. The city’s optimal geographic location positions it perfectly to serve as a connecting point for cargo transfers coming from or destined for the Prairies, the West Coast or the Northwest; and while the highways and rail lines make it a perfect hub for ground transport, the air cargo business is booming as well, thanks to a unique setup at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA).
EIA’s Cargo Village is a one-stop shop for all things cargo. Cargo Village consolidates transport operations into one location, streamlining processes for both the airport and the cargo companies that do businesses there. Tenants of the village range from smaller, domestic outfits, to major international companies like FedEx, DHL and a number of international airlines that service locations across North America, Europe and beyond. Both the air and ground transport industries are represented there, providing a crucial connection point for inbound and outgoing cargo. As the name suggests, Cargo Village operates as though it were its own town.
“An Aerotropolis is a multi-modal airport city, and EIA has been recognized as one of two emerging Aerotropolises in Canada,” explains Alex Lowe, manager of cargo business development at the airport. “The Cargo Village is the cargo and logistics component of our larger Aerotropolis development at EIA.”
It’s this Aerotropolis setup that makes Cargo Village a logistics utopia, where businesses that provide various services within the transportation sector come together and function as their own ecosystem. “A well-designed and functioning Cargo Village allows for the many complementary components of the cargo supply chain to operate within the same geographic area at the airport,” says Lowe. “This shortens transfer times, wait times and reduces handling, while improving safety and quality. Air cargo must move quickly and seamlessly through the many links in the supply chain, including, airlines, customs, warehouses, and trucking companies. Having all of these companies within the Cargo Village maximizes efficiency.”
Canadian North provides air cargo and passenger transportation services to and from northern locations. They maintain a cargo services location in Cargo Village. Kelly Lewis, manager of communications at Canadian North, agrees with the notion that efficiency is the biggest benefit to Cargo Village. In fact, that’s precisely why the company chose to set up shop in there in 2015. “Relocating to Cargo Village has created clear efficiencies,” he says. “Our proximity to operators who offer complementing services has enabled a closer, more efficient working relationship with a quicker flow of cargo between our respective facilities.”
Though many of the businesses in Cargo Village are competitors vying for the same jobs from the same customers, they still make for friendly neighbours. The proximity between cargo transport outfits reduces transfer time between companies, benefiting both parties and helping them with business retention, which provides a competitive advantage. “We saw clear advantages to relocating our cargo infrastructure to a location in close proximity to a wide array of other cargo operators and supply chain participants,” says Lewis. “This proximity has enabled shorter transfer times between ourselves and these neighbouring facilities.”
It’s not just the business-to-business relationships that make Cargo Village a prime spot for transporters. The airport has also implemented other services, amenities and infrastructure that keep cargo loads moving quickly and efficiently on to their next destination. Dedicated runways, crews and warehouses keep things rolling and reduce the risk of delays while providing rapid customs service. Canada Border Services Agency access and bonded warehousing ease bureaucratic burdens for international freight. It’s a carefully thought out setup made possible not only by wise planning, but by the luck of the area’s sweeping, wide open landscape.
“Other airports have cargo areas, but EIA is blessed with the largest land area of any airport in Canada,” says Lowe. “Therefore we have the ability to plan well into the future and stay slightly ahead of demand. This allows the passenger side of our business and the cargo side of the business to grow simultaneously. We have ample space to expand the terminal, while allowing lots of room for continued growth of our cargo operations.”
The advantages of Cargo Village spread far beyond the companies that use the facilities. According to Lewis, the benefits are passed on to customers of transport companies as well. “Our customers are benefiting from reduced transition time,” he explains, “which, in many instances, can speed up their overall delivery times.”
Lowe sees the benefits spreading even further, creating a positive impact on the regional economy and job market. “Cargo airlines and logistics companies prefer airports that allow them to arrive, be offloaded and loaded, and depart, as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is critical to staying on schedule and controlling costs,” he explains. “This comprehensive type of operation creates an import and export friendly logistics hub, connecting our region to the global market. The resulting flow of goods, in turn, drives investment and job creation in our region, which is EIA’s mission, as well as contributing to economic diversification.”
At the end of the day, it’s more than just the location, the facilities or the specific companies that make Cargo Village thrive. It’s the relationships and cooperation among companies that give it its upbeat energy and create an ideal business environment for transport companies. Lewis can attest to the valuable role neighbourly relationships play in keeping business running and customers happy. “Being an early arrival to Cargo Village has enabled us to build closer working relationships with a wide array of service partners and collaborate more effectively based on our close proximity to each other,” he says. “By working together, we are able to operate more efficiently and reduce transfer time between our respective facilities. There are clear benefits for operators located within Cargo Village, and the customers we serve.”
When thinking of transportation and logistics at EIA, it’s important not to overlook private charter services. Airco Aircraft Charters, for example, provides (among many other charter services) hot shot transportation for cargo.
Airco notes that oil and gas companies, especially in Edmonton and Calgary, frequently need parts or personnel on an emergency basis. In the oilfield, equipment failure can cause costly downtime and, depending on the situation, can create a health hazard. In these situations, Airco can quickly and efficiently transport cargo and crews to site.
Mary Anne Stanway, Airco’s managing director, points out why her fleet is so dependable for hot shot cargo.
“Depending on the destination and the type of cargo, our Piper Navajo Chieftains can carry up to 1,000 pounds per load.” She further notes that, “Airco’s Beechcraft King Air 100s and Beech 1900Ds can fly further at higher altitudes and faster speeds. Under ideal conditions the 1900D can carry up to 4,500 pounds. Airco is also an approved dangerous goods carrier and can often be in the air within two hours of an emergency call.”
Airco’s convenient location at EIA means the charter company can manoeuver quickly, providing the safe and reliable service companies need.
EIA and the many cargo companies on site place Edmonton prominently on the international stage for efficient transportation and logistics management, and as the airport continues to grow and expand, the Aerotropolis will continue attract positive attention locally and abroad.