Ethiopian Airlines to Build Africa’s Largest Cargo Terminal

The upcoming €107m facility at Addis Ababa International Airport can accommodate up to 600,000 tons of air freight per year. But this investment marks only the first step with more initiatives to follow for modernizing and enlarging the infrastructure.

Image of Ethiopian’s new cargo center at Addis Ababa International Airport  /  source: Unitechnik GmbH
Image of Ethiopian’s new cargo center at Addis Ababa International Airport / source: Unitechnik GmbH

Measured against African standards the projected cargo building will be a showcase for storing and processing air freight consignments. According to plans it will be equipped with a number of submersible pallet stations that are directly connected with the conveyor and located only steps away from an array of different cool rooms that are able to accommodate about 300,000 tons of temperature sensitive perishable shipments each year.


This capability to process temperature critical goods is vital for ET Cargo, since cut flowers and agricultural produce rank on top of the exports that constantly leave the East African state. This is confirmed by Ethiopian Cargo that speaks of an increasing number of perishables that are loaded aboard their fleet to Europe or markets in the Middle East.


Due to the rapid growth of these commodities the airline today already has plans to build a second cargo building for the time after the projected facility has gone online. Its inauguration is scheduled to take place in 2016. 


Comments Tewolde Gebre Mariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group: “In line with our vision 2025, this massive investment in construction of the two cargo terminals shows our unwavering commitment to support the Ethiopian fast growing export of agricultural products and high value imports to the continent, which are critically important for economic development of many African countries.”


He went on to say: “Including the existing cargo terminal 1, the combined annual capacity of the three facilities will be around 1.5 million tons of cargo annually which will make Ethiopian one of the largest air cargo operators in the world.”


Green light for the phase one project was given only days ago with ET Cargo announcing the signing of a full turnkey contract for facilitating the warehouse. While local Varnero Construction will be responsible for the exterior works, German builder Unitechnik Systems has been commissioned to contribute the interior equipment, including conveyor technique, high-rack storage systems, and electronic equipment.

MD Wolfgang Cieplik of Unitechnik / source: private
MD Wolfgang Cieplik of Unitechnik / source: private

The planning phase ends already next month, followed by the practical implementation right after, announces Managing Director Wolfgang Cieplik of Unitechnik.


He speaks of an “unusually large project”, the most comprehensive tender ever won by his firm. “The Addis Ababa terminal is by far much bigger than the cargo building at Durban Airport in South Africa that we had equipped with our technical systems prior to engaging in Ethiopia,” Cieplik stated when asked by CargoForwarder Global. He further said that the technology is not as complex or sophisticated as seen in state-of-the-art cargo buildings at leading European, North American or Asian airports. It was highly important for Ethiopian Cargo that all systems installed in the building are easy to manage and to control.

Heiner Siegmund