It’s unfortunate but despite being widely recognized as a key cargo and logistics area, Edmonton’s cargo sector is often overlooked in the gush of other, high-impact business news.
“Cargo and logistics play a major role in our region’s economic growth and development,” explains Mammen Tharakan, director of e-commerce, cargo, aviation real estate and business development at Edmonton International Airport (YEG). “Increasing air capacity and global market access for exports and trade opportunities is a gamechanger for our region, as well as the international supply chain. It drives the growth of small and medium enterprises in Alberta, in the region and in the rest of Canada. It definitely creates jobs and it spurs investment.”
Cargo Village is the cargo and logistics component of YEG. It allows many complementary components of the cargo supply chain to operate within the same geographic area at the airport, shortening transfer and wait times, reducing handling and improving safety and quality.
A basic but essential fact of the logistics sector requires that air cargo must move quickly and seamlessly through the many links in the supply chain, including airlines, customs brokers, handlers, logistics partners, warehouses, trucking companies and others that deal in the business of handling and processing air freight.
“The Edmonton edge is having all the components within Cargo Village. It maximizes efficiency and is forged on strong partnerships with various top-tier cargo service providers,” he adds.
As a vital part of YEG’s Airport City Sustainability Campus, Cargo Village is a key hub of transportation, logistics, manufacturing, sustainability, technology development and tourism.
“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 our cargo operations to grow simultaneously,” Tharakan says. “The relationships and cooperation among companies make Cargo Village successful and create an ideal business environment for cargo and logistics companies.”
There is a positive distinction that, according to the numbers, YEG not only has the largest land area of any airport in Canada, it has also activated over $1.5 billion in on-airport development, more than any other airport in North America. This translates into exciting potential.
“We have ample space to expand the terminal while allowing lots of room for the continued growth of our cargo operations,” he says with enthusiasm. “Building out the air cargo network with increased frequency from carriers like DHL and FedEx, the launch of nonstop service to Frankfurt (a major cargo hub for Europe) and the upcoming regional cargo service to the North will also help drive growth.”
Over the past three years, Cargo Village had a surge in activity from dedicated cargo operators looking for a freighter-friendly airport, providing a high standard of uninterrupted service. The YEG cargo capabilities became even more critical during the pandemic, with the increased movement of COVID-19 rapid test kits, vaccines and other medical supplies to protect the Edmonton community. The extra good news? At the same time, shipments of agri-food and e-commerce products through Cargo Village also increased.
“Since 2015, private investment has added 370,000 square feet of new cargo, warehouse and office space in Cargo Village, further enhancing YEG’s ability to drive the region’s economy by enabling faster and more convenient international trade,” says Christina Chu, Senior Marketing Advisor with the City of Edmonton.
She adds that in 2014, YEG invested more than $30 million in new cargo areas, taxiways and land servicing and, in recent years, YEG has attracted more than $1 billion in investment and thousands of quality jobs through Airport City and economic diversification.
For 2023 and beyond, Tharakan itemizes YEG’s focus of four key priorities that are specifically related to cargo: expanding capacity, building out the air cargo network, driving innovation and continuing its sustainability efforts.
In terms of physical infrastructure, late last year, YEG completed the construction of a $36-million, 47,000-square-metre expansion of its cargo apron, enabling it to accommodate more planes at one time and hold six more wide-body aircraft.
With increasing volumes expanding Cargo Village’s space and capacity, innovative aspects of logistics are also becoming a reality.
Drones are now a Cargo Village focus. Tharakan notes YEG’s goal to explore opportunities to work with regulators and partners to expand the options and soon offer BVLoS (beyond visual line of sight) drone delivery services.
Various other factors continue to give YEG, and specifically Cargo Village, significant and positive bragging rights in the air freight and logistics sector.
According to EEDC, YEG is the only Canadian airport with the globally recognized CEIV Pharma certification from the International Air Transport Association. It’s a potent credential because it means YEG meets the highest standards in the world for handling temperature-sensitive cargo, such as agriculture and food products, pharmaceutical and medical cargo.
Chu also highlights that an emphasis on sustainability initiatives has allowed YEG to become the first airport in the world to decouple growth of the airport from carbon emissions.
“YEG has doubled in size in recent years, but its energy consumption has been cut in half through the integration of BOMA Gold and LEED Gold standards across developments like the inclusion of three cogeneration units to produce its own power to heat buildings.”
Cargo Village’s success is a multi-factored story.
“It is a reflection of successes in our region,” Tharakan says. “The strength and spirit of the many entrepreneurs and industries in the Edmonton region are key factors in the logistics growth at Cargo Village. From a business perspective, ultimately, the goods moving through the airport are being brought in to enable a business in the region or are being shipped out from a producer, manufacturer, artisan or reseller in our region. On the consumer side, the volumes are a reflection of the economic environment and speak to residents ordering more goods through retailers.”
The numbers show Cargo Village’s growth and its value as an important component of YEG’s business, particularly making it possible for the airport to diversify its revenue stream beyond passenger traffic.
“The size and location of Cargo Village is a driver for enhancing the air cargo industry by embracing modern technologies and practices to sustainably and fairly serve trade and social development, regionally and worldwide,” Tharakan concludes with a mix of excitement and pride.