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Local airports angle to attract more cargo airlines

Eldoret International Airport
Cargo workers at the Eldoret International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Local airports are calling for more investments to boost their capacity to handle rising demand for freight services.

The Kenya Aviation Authority (KAA) says it has been working to woo cargo airlines in local airports. As the effort pays off, KAA acting managing director Alex Gitari said the airports need to be expanded to handle the growing demand for cargo services.

Eldoret International Airport, he said, is the fastest growing airport — after the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) — with more cargo airlines landing.

Data indicate that Eldoret Airport handled 11,200 metric tonnes in 2018 down from 9,100 metric tonnes in 2017. The airport if fully utilised has the capacity to handle more than 60,000 metric tonnes annually.

Some of the airlines operating at the airport include Ethiopian Airline, Fly Emirates, Jambo Jet, Sax and Skyward Express

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Mr Gitari noted that among the initiatives the authority has put in place is working closely with The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries to entice more airlines to launch cargo freight in the country.

“KAA is finalising on an incentive plan for scheduled flights that will include launching new routes apart from investing on both air and ground infrastructure to provide conducive space for existing and new airlines,” said Mr Gitari.

“Eldoret Airport has recorded significant growth in cargo carriers due to its position and also the availability of horticulture which has remained our major export in the country. We are working with Comesa to link airlines which export Kenyan products to return with different merchandise to make routes more profitable.”

Eldoret Airport, which has two cargo warehouses and one passenger terminal, is strategically positioned with intermodal transport network such as lake and road making it attractive to other greater lakes regions.

Due to increasing demand of air freight transport, JKIA is constructing its sixth cargo terminal set for completion by February 2020, and which will increase its combined annual capacity of 1.2 million tonnes.

The terminals are fitted with modern specialised cargo handling facilities and adequate cold-rooms hence attracting more than 17 international scheduled cargo carriers and several ad-hoc freighters.

On February this year, JKIA was ranked the second fastest growing airport in the World Cargo Ranking which was attributed to growth of new markets in Far East and Australia and the increase in meat exports to Middle East.

“KAA is committed in ensuring more international scheduled cargo carriers visit not only JKIA but also utilise our other 18 airports and airstrips that is why we are undertaking major rehabilitation and expansion in our facilities,” said Mr Gitari.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 12 Routes Africa meeting in Mombasa attended by business leaders from leading airlines, airports and tourism authorities to discuss air services to, from and within Africa.

The acting MD said there was a need to invest in new and modern terminals in different airstrips such as that of Malindi, Diani, Manda among others to attract bigger airlines and more visitors.

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