Liege Airport is Revving up its Horse Power

A state-of-the-art ‘Equine Centre of Excellence’ will enable Liege Airport to capitalize on the lucrative live horses logistics, now mainly concentrated in Amsterdam and Maastricht. The ‘Horse Inn’ is part of a strategy to consolidate LGG as Europe’s fastest growing cargo airport.

Liege focuses on the equine business  -  courtesy Qatar Cargo
Liege focuses on the equine business - courtesy Qatar Cargo

The new investment was highlighted at a dedicated event the airport management hosted for its customers on 2 March. Cargo Development manager Bert Selis elaborated on the fact that LGG is a true air cargo community, forged by the collaboration between the airport company, the handlers, the forwarders and the truckers. LGG can boast direct connections within Europe (thanks to TNT), the America’s, Africa and Asia.
“As for volume, Europe, Asia and the America’s & Africa each bring in 1/3,” said Bert. “That is why we are less vulnerable than other airports that are too dependent on one particular region s.a. the combination Schiphol/Asia. It also explains our continued growth.”

Beating its own record
In 2015 tonnage at the airport grew by 10% to 650,000 tonnes. The latest traffic figure still does not exceed the record to date, which was 674,000 tonnes in 2011, but according to Bert there is little doubt that it will be beaten in 2016. The 60,000 tonnes gained in 2015 were mainly won thanks to the additional frequencies to the America’s. Traffic related to this region grew from 62,000 to 107,000 tonnes. The European traffic increased from 200,000 to 221,000 tonnes, the Asian volume from 204,000 to 214,000 tonnes. The only set-back was noted in the African volume, down from 126,000 to 108,000 tonnes.
LGG explicitly puts itself on the map as a hub for specialized products like packages, express, e-commerce, perishables, pharmaceuticals and racing horses. The latter segment has grown into a niche in its own right, said Cargo Sales Manager Eric Gysen. The average throughput is calculated at 3,000 animals a year.

Horse Inn
That is the reason why LGG is putting up a new state-of-the-art facility that will enable the airport to accommodate the horses in the best possible conditions, both on departure and arrival. The ‘Horse Inn’ is being constructed in the Cargo South area of the airport, as it had to be placed adjacent to the border inspection post.
Until now the traffic of racing horses has always been a privilege of Schiphol and Maastricht airports, both of which can offer the specific facilities demanded by the industry. A lot of horses are actually bred in the UK, but the volume they make up is too small to fill a freighter aircraft for one flight.
The advantages LGG can offer are considerable, said Eric. “LGG is specialized in full freighters and is operational on a 24/7 base. We do not have any slot restrictions, any ATC delays and have direct airside access.”

No quarantine
The ‘Horse Inn’ will be marketed as an ‘Equine Centre of Excellence’. It is to be operational end of April/early May, i.e. just in time for the Rio Olympics. According to Eric some 10 to 16 flights with 50 horses per flight are expected for the Games.
Liege Airport is also in need of a transit centre for horses. “It is of the utmost importance that the animals not be given an opportunity to get in contact with one another,” said Eric. The ‘Horse Inn’ will not be a quarantine zone however, as the huge investments this would entail can never be matched by a profitable operation. A specialized handler whose name has not been made public by the airport yet will manage the new facility.

A lot of land on offer
Liege Airport will continue to invest in other facilities as well. This year, the construction of two additional warehouses will start in the Cargo North area, adding 12,000 sqm to the existing infrastructure. In all, the airport will be able to offer 470 ha to accommodate cargo related facilities by 2031. The Northern Cargo village will be totally dedicated to air freight logistics.
Currently, the northern zone has 28 ha on offer. By 2020 another 25 ha will be available and another 30 by 2030. Each warehouse will have a minimum space of 2,500 m². The markets LGG wants to focus on are general cargo, pharmaceuticals, perishables, e-commerce and European Distribution Centres.
A topic not touched in the presentations was the possible impact of the take-over of TNT by FedEx. All stakeholders seem to agree that no contingency plans can be drawn up before FedEx has decided in this respect. At the moment the prevailing feeling seems to be that the combination FedEx/TNT is less harmful than the aborted merger of TNT and UPS. The latter has its European hub at nearby Cologne-Bonn, while FedEx concentrates its European activities at Paris-CDG.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

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