Canada’s two largest airports base their infrastructure development strategy on the theory that efficient, cargo-friendly airports will lead the country to trade prosperity, and Asia will be the center of that trade.
“Airports will drive 21st century trade as much as highways did in the 20th century and railroads in the 19th century,” said Perry Cloete, manager of air service business development at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
Toronto, Canada’s largest airport, and Vancouver International Airport, the second-largest, participate in Canada’s Pacific Gateway initiative. The public-private initiative includes government agencies, railroads and seaport and airport authorities. They share in the development of goods-movement infrastructure and work together to market Canada as an efficient gateway for North America’s trade with Asia.
Like the seaports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, the airports compete for cargo moving to and from the U.S. as well as from Canada. While they seek trade with all regions of the world, the airport authorities view the Asia-Pacific as having the greatest potential for growth.
“Europe is a mature market. YVR (Vancouver International) is targeting the Asia-Pacific market,” said Dora Kay, senior policy adviser, Asia marketing, at the Vancouver Airport Authority.
Canada’s air freight market came roaring back in 2010 after dropping in the 2008-09 global trade recession. Vancouver handled about 228,000 tons of air freight last year, up 15.3 percent over 2009. Toronto last year handled 450,000 tons of air cargo.
Vancouver is a natural gateway for sea and air cargo with its location on Canada’s Pacific Coast. In addition to its strategic location, the airport authority works especially hard to attract passenger and freighter services to Asia, Kay said.
Vancouver has 57 flights a week to Asia, compared with 52 flights in Los Angeles and 49 weekly flights in San Francisco, she said.
Vancouver considers itself to be a gateway for the U.S. Pacific Northwest, with seafood and perishable fruit and berry exports from Washington state and Oregon.
Toronto is the gateway to Ontario, Canada’s business and commercial center, although the airport serves air freight interests in Atlantic Canada as well as the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Toronto’s service area also includes the Detroit-Cleveland-Buffalo corridor. Toronto emphasizes that it is within a day’s drive of 40 percent of the U.S. population. “You can reach certain U.S. markets faster from Toronto than from Chicago,” Cloete said.
In addition to serving Asia, Toronto is strong in the Latin American markets, so it has become as a transshipment hub for trade between Asia and Latin America, he added.
China is by far Toronto’s largest market in the Asia-Pacific region, accounting for 46 percent of the trade. About two-thirds of the trade is imports, including clothing and accessories, computers, telecommunications and electronic goods, automotive parts and pharmaceuticals.
Toronto also specializes in the export of live animals, including racehorses, dairy cattle and breeding stock, Cloete said. Other exports include equipment for the oil and mining industries.
Because freight forwarders play a key role in booking air freight, Vancouver and Toronto provide on-airport full-service cargo villages, including warehouses for dry freight and cold storage facilities for frozen and perishable cargoes.
The airports also cater to various modes of air freight transport, including cargo shipments that arrive in the bellies of passenger aircraft, air freighters and the major express carriers and integrators.
The Canadian airports offer incentives tailored for air freight shippers. Vancouver offers a cargo fuel rebate program. Toronto has steadily reduced its land fees in recent years, cutting the fees 45 percent since 2007.
Both airports in recent years invested heavily in infrastructure development and they are still growing into the facilities, yet they have sufficient land available for expansion.
Now that the recession is behind them, the airports anticipate a return to steady growth, and their participation in Canada’s Pacific Gateway initiative will be the key to promoting this growth. “The Asia-Pacific traffic is quite good,” Kay said.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.