With the inauguration of the largest cargo terminal at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, Africa is positioning itself in the global competitive market. Reji John reports

Ethiopian Airlines has consistently maintained its reputation of offering the best services to its passengers. It has started to do the same for its cargo services with bold steps to increase investments in world class cargo facilities and in the most modern fleet of aircraft. The recent inauguration of a new cargo terminal, built at a cost of $150 million, is a manifestation of Africa's leading carrier's commitment to economic integration, one of the key aspirations of the African Union.

Having the largest cargo terminal with the new generation, high-performance aircraft reflects the commitment in expanding and supporting the exponentially growing imports and exports of the country in particular and the African continent in general.

Inaugurated by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn on the sidelines of the 'second International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) Meeting on Air Cargo Development in Africa', the cargo terminal is built at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on a 150,000sqm plot. It has the capacity to handle 600,000 tonnes of cargo per annum, while the existing cargo terminal has the capacity to handle 350,000 tonnes of cargo yearly.

The new cargo terminal includes facilities such as dry cargo terminal warehouse, perishable cargo terminal with cool chain storage, fully automated with latest technology ETV (Elevating Transport Vehicle), G+2 office building, apron area which accommodates five additional big freighter aircraft, sufficient truck parking apron as well as employees canteen and washrooms. The new cargo terminal is also fitted with different climate chambers for storage and handling of temperature sensitive products such as fresh agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, and life science products.

Besides First lady Roman Tesfaye and Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, president of the ICAO Council, ministers from the Ethiopian government, more than 250 delegates, who participated in the Second ICAO Meeting on Air Cargo Development in Africa forum, senior executives of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise and flower and vegetable exporters attended the inaugural ceremony.

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam claims that the new cargo terminal is not only the largest in Africa but it is one of the best in world. "It is comparable with the cargo terminals in Schiphol Airport of Amsterdam, Changi Airport of Singapore and Hong Kong International Airport. With this large and modern terminal Africa can position itself in the global competitive market," Tewolde said.

Prime Minister Hailemariam said that he was delighted with the fast growth of the country's national carrier. Hailemariam noted that Ethiopian's global network to more than 95 international destinations has been facilitating tourism, trade and investment to the country.

"Our foreign and domestic investors are enjoying this convenient, dependable and economical air connectivity. The success of our new initiative of tourism sector transformation depends on our national flag carrier's vast network. Above all, Ethiopian Airlines has played an important and irreplaceable role in the development of our horticultural products export and foreign exchange earnings," Hailemariam said.

The Prime Minister used the opportunity to invite global companies to invest in the booming horticulture development and manufacturing sectors.

The cargo terminal has various compartments dedicated for fruits, vegetables, flower, meat, pharmaceuticals, and other export items. It has four modern electronic transport vehicles and it can store 900 airplane pallets at a time. It has eight lanes exiting to the ramp, and it can load eight airplanes at a time and the ramp can accommodate five Boeing B777 dedicated freighter aircraft at a time.

It can dock 18 trucks at a time unloading fresh flowers, vegetables, fruits, meat, textile, leather articles and pharmaceuticals.

"With modern B777 freighter aircraft each with a hauling capacity of 100 tonnes of cargo and a state-of-the-art cargo terminal with a capacity to accommodate close to one million tonnes of cargo we are now globally competitive. Since Ethiopia is a landlocked country it should have a vibrant air cargo sector," said Fistum Abady, Managing Director, Ethiopian Cargo.

At the inauguration Tewolde revealed that Ethiopian Cargo has already partnered with DHL, a global forwarding company to enter into the multi modal logistics business. "With double digit GDP growth and ongoing industrialisation process the country badly needs an integrated logistics services. The logistics sector should prepare itself to handle the growing import and export sector," Tewolde said.

Ever since the first cargo charter operation was launched to Nairobi in 1946 and the boom of agricultural export products out of Ethiopia, Ethiopian's cargo service has been steadily growing since the early 1970 Ethiopian Cargo & Logistics Service is now one of the seven strategic business units of the Ethiopian Airlines Group established under the Vision 2025, the national carrier's 15 year growth strategic road-map launched in 2010. With eight dedicated freighter aircraft (six B777 and two B757) Ethiopian Cargo has a daily uplift capacity of 8,672 tonnes that makes it the largest cargo operator in Africa.

Ethiopian inaugurated the first expansion of the cargo terminal in 2006 and is now planning to launch the third expansion project-terminal III with the capacity of accommodating additional 600,000 tonnes of cargo.

The French Development Bank, AFD, financed the construction of the cargo terminal while the German Export Credit Agency KFW financed the electro mechanical work. The new cargo terminal civil work is done by Varnero while UNITECH, the German cold store technology company, supplied and installed all the cargo handling system.

While the new terminal has been formally inaugurated, actual commercial operations would only begin from September this year.

Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services would soon commence work on the third cargo terminal expansion project which will have additional 600,000 tonnes of cargo handling capacity. When the third terminal is completed Addis Ababa would be one of the top ten leading cargo hubs in the world.

In line with the Vision 2025, Ethiopian Cargo will eventually build facilities to handle 1.2million tonnes of cargo annually and serve 47 destinations using 18 freighter aircraft.

Read Full Article