DHL Express Doubles up in LEJ

The new concrete cover has been poured already. Next August, a 15,000-sqm distribution center for containers will go online, followed by a 25,000m² sorting center in November. Once construction work is finished, the Deutsche Post logistics subsidiary will double the sorting capacity at its main European gateway Leipzig/Halle Airport.

DHL’s Robert Viegers welcomes the announced enlargement of the integrator’s ground infrastructure at LEJ Airport.
DHL’s Robert Viegers welcomes the announced enlargement of the integrator’s ground infrastructure at LEJ Airport.

DHL Express flexes its muscles at Leipzig by investing an additional €150m for enlarging its infrastructure. Once the new facility is operational, the total sorting capacity will almost be doubled, reaching 150,000 parcels and packages per hour. This should suffice for some years, but since the express segment is outgrowing standard air freight further construction projects might become necessary in the foreseeable future. If so, the integrator has taken the necessary precautions by securing the right for developing a large plot located adjacent to its present hall.
Since DHL’s initial investments of €350m back in 2006, the number of jobs increases constantly from 420 employees in 2007 to meanwhile more than 3,600 staff. Next, there will be 400 additional jobs provided by DHL Express at LEJ, once the new sorting center opens its doors.

Returning to the East
On a side note it is worth mentioning that the Deutsche Post subsidiary is attracting quite a number of East Germans that had left their homes years ago to seek better paid and easier to access jobs in the western part of the country. But now “an increasing number of them are flocking back because they are attracted by vacant positions in logistics and also some other business fields here in Leipzig,” states Robert Viegers, Senior VP Hubs and Gateways Europe at DHL Express.

The 757Fs are the backbone of DHL’s European freighter fleet.
The 757Fs are the backbone of DHL’s European freighter fleet.

Preventing bottleneck situations
The planned expansion of sorting capacity, which also includes more parking positions for freighters on the tarmac next to the upcoming facility, is an urgently needed step, states Robert Viegers. The manager points out that during peak times last December up to 340,000 shipments were processed in the existing sorting center each night. However, it wasn’t the sorting process that caused Robert and his team some headaches, but managing the fast flow of cargo containers to prevent time consuming bottleneck situations proved to be a sweaty task. “Despite great efforts of our entire handling staff at some situations we really became aware of our limits,” he recalls.
No wonder since the existing sorting center was originally built on an estimated growth rate of 4.4 percent annually, which proved to be a conservative target. In reality, the average yearly figures were notably higher.
That explains why the package giant recently announced earmarking funds for adding new sorting capacity to its Leipzig hub. 

What will happen to DHL’s 757 freighters?
Currently, about 90 freighters, predominantly Boeing 757Fs, belong to the integrator’s European fleet. From these, 64 are permanently based at LEJ, including eight Triple Seven freighters managed by AeroLogic, a DHL-Lufthansa Cargo joint venture (50/50%). While most flights to the Middle and Far East are still operated by partnering carriers, like Kalitta Air, Southern Air or Polar Air the picture is somehow different on transatlantic routes to and from New York and Cincinnati. There the capacity of 767Fs is mostly utilized, operated by sister company DHL Air. “In addition to our own cargo-only aircraft or those of partnering main deck providers like MNG, Atran and some others we have many shipments flown in the holds of commercial passenger airlines,” describes Robert the two mainstays to airlift parcels and packages the fastest and most convenient way.

An open question that’s currently hotly debated behind closed doors is the fate of the 757 freighter fleet. These aircraft which are capable of uplifting 25 tons each flight, are DHL’s workhorses on many intra-European routes, but are slowly reaching their age limits. Therefore, they’ll have to be replaced sooner or later. But what comes instead? The A300Fs are not manufactured any longer and the A330s seem to be too big for being an alternative. At present, only one thing seems to be clear: DHL’s freighter fleet at LEJ will not be increased, but it’s obviously intended to replace the 757Fs by somewhat larger aircraft. Which type is unknown and most likely not even decided upon.

Heiner Siegmund