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  • Improved airports, improved exports: Cargo upgrades support seafood industry

Improved airports, improved exports: Cargo upgrades support seafood industry

Friday, November 23, 2018

It can be hard to imagine that our fresh lobster and seafood can reach Asia more quickly than passengers do. From catch to plate, Nova Scotia seafood is reaching more markets, more quickly, than ever before. From fishing boats in Nova Scotia to the restaurants in mainland China, elapsed travel time is no more than fifteen to twenty hours. Thanks to the frequent air freight from Halifax to Asia, and a growing global demand for the province’s quality seafood, the industry is strong and seeing exceptional growth. Since 2009, the value of exports from Nova Scotia to China increased by an incredible 1011%, with seafood consistently as the top export category. Sales are dominated by live lobster, but also include frozen crab, shrimp, prawns, clams and frozen lobster. 

Driven by the impressive growth of the sector, the Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA), operators of the Halifax Stanfield International Airport (HSIA), announced plans to invest and upgrade the airport’s cargo facility. Set to include: a new cargo building, new taxiways, expanded refrigeration capacity, and an expansion of aircraft parking and de-icing facilities, this significantly improves the airport’s logistical capabilities and its ability to store, transfer, and ship goods like live lobster. For those in the seafood business, these infrastructural improvements are extremely important and allow Nova Scotia companies to better serve international markets.

This significantly improves the airport’s logistical capabilities and its ability to store, transfer, and ship goods like live lobster.

Joyce Carter, President & CEO of the HIAA, explains how this project benefits the province’s exporters. “We have a very robust lobster and seafood industry, and a large portion is exported through the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The challenge we’re facing is a capacity issue, so we’re very excited to expand our facilities and be able to support growth in this area. We couldn’t do it alone, so we’re very grateful the federal and provincial governments see this as a priority as well. We’re also appreciative of our partners in the cargo logistics chain who have shown great support for the creation of the Halifax Stanfield Air Cargo Logistics Park.”  

Greater capacity at the HSIA reduces the need for exporters to use alternate means to get their product to market, like trucking lobster to another airport, which can happen when HSIA hits capacity. 

“There have been very busy, peak times when we’ve hit capacity and the shipper has to find an alternative. But that adds transit time, decreases the freshness and quality, and increases mortality of the product. This then results in a lower price in the market. Being able to export directly from Halifax, we can get lobster there much quicker, much more efficiently, and attract a much higher price for that high-quality item.”

The HSIA is a gateway for trade, and as it is improved and enhanced, confidence grows among exporters. Stewart Lamont, Managing Director at Tangier Lobster Company, is excited about the expansion and the benefits to the industry. 

“The world has become a very small and interconnected place, and the Halifax Stanfield International Airport is Atlantic Canada’s amazing platform to Europe and Asia. Anything that enhances that and leads to improved connectivity and lift is a big win. Our seafood is increasingly valuable, and that’s good for the entire region, not just the seafood community. These cargo enhancements are a very significant and notable first step,” says Lamont.

The Halifax Stanfield International Airport is Atlantic Canada’s amazing platform to Europe and Asia.

The airport is critical to the supply chain of all seafood, especially live lobster. Currently, Nova Scotia’s lobsters are chartered directly from Halifax to Asia five times per week, and indirectly through other gateways across the world. The proposed airport facility improvements will help Nova Scotia’s lobsters reach even more markets. 

“Demand is growing from mainland China, but it’s not just that region. It’s South Korea, it’s Singapore, it’s Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam. There’s a range of regions along the Pacific rim of Asia that we’ll now be able to better serve from Halifax,” says Lamont.

The improved connectivity and capacity of the airport may also improve seafood exports across the Atlantic, and allow more Nova Scotia lobster to reach plates in Europe. 

Lamont explains further, “There’s lots of export potential in Europe, given the trade agreement [CETA], but our connectivity to Europe isn’t as strong as what we have going to Asia. Anything that’s being done to create better capacity would allow us to do more in the seafood sector in Europe. There are always challenges, and we’re still in early days with CETA, but there is huge potential.”

Carter agrees that while China is a key market, the airport expansion creates many new opportunities. “It’s endless in terms of benefit. We’re putting a lot of focus on live lobster, refrigeration space, and capacity to store and transport seafood; however, there’s endless potential and benefit for all exports. For example, as the logistics park grows and develops it won’t just benefit seafood, but hopefully many more industries,” says Carter.

With the project planning already underway, and activity set to start mid-2019, everyone involved looks forward to what’s to come. Stewart and the team at Tangier Lobster are pleased with the support the industry is receiving. “The new enhancements at the airport build upon an already strong business model. It’s very encouraging that both our governments and the Airport Authority recognize the need to invest and keep pace with this growing air freight export opportunity.”

Whether you are new to exporting, expanding to new markets, or looking to grow your export business, NSBI can help.