Seafood demand set to lead to Saudia Cargo to add freighter to Oslo and JFK

Saudia Cargo is set to add a new freighter service to Oslo Airport as it looks to tap into opportunities that the Norwegian seafood market presents.

Speaking yesterday during a session on seafood at the Nordic Air Cargo Symposium in Stockholm, the carrier’s regional director for Europe, Rainer Muller (pictured above) said the new service could start sometime over the next few months.

Muller said he was meeting freight forwarders’ and Oslo Airport operator Avinor this week to discuss the plans and finalise a feasibility study to define a potential day of operation.

He explained to delegates that the carrier is looking into operating a freighter direct from Saudi Arabia via Oslo to New York’s JFK International Airport. It would start serving Saudi Arabia and the Middle East from Central Europe via Saudi Arabian gateways.

Muller said a key part of any new freighter service into Olso is that it is “sustainable” and provides stable year-round capacity.

He also said that the prerequisite of the new cargo route was “close cooperation and communication between airline, forwarder and shipper”.

News of the planned Saudia Cargo freighter into Oslo will come as a boost for the seafood supply chain as demand for Norwegian fish, especially salmon has gone through the roof over the last few years.

The Norwegian market is set to double in the next 10 years and grow 500 per cent in the next 30 years and last year Oslo Airport’s seafood volumes grew substantially. 600 tonnes of seafood are flown out of the airport every day in freighters and in the bellies of passenger aircraft.

Also speaking on the session at the Nordic Air Cargo Symposium was a seafood company in the shape of Marine Harvest’s head of air freight, Tom Erling Mikkelsen, who said there is a lack of capacity to meet strong demand and it needs more access.

Mikkelsen added Marine Harvest is already working on meeting demand for the peak season. “We are already working on Christmas so we can get the capacity we need for Q4,” he said.

He outlined a number of other challenges the company faces and notably made the point that the role of the forwarder “must improve” and further “discussed and defined”.

Mikkelsen added later after a question from conference chairman, Finnair Cargo’s global head of sales, Fredrik Wildtgrube: “I would like to forwarders’ to contribute more in the process. We see a lack of innovation and initiative and I would like to see more of that in the future.”

Avinor is facing quite a headache in terms of meeting strong seafood demand and in attracting new capacity from Oslo Airport.

Avinor’s director of cargo, Martin Langaas told delegates after Muller and Mikkelsen spoke, that in 2017 more than 90,000 tonnes of seafood was flown out of Oslo, a 38 per cent increase on 2016 and growth is set to continue.

The gateway has attracted significant new capacity over the last few years and in less than two years the number of freighter carriers at Oslo has gone from two to 10 and from seven weekly flights to 20.

Langaas said more are to come, but added that new capacity is a challenge largely due to the imbalance between exports and imports, as due to such high seafood volumes and a small population, Oslo exports significantly more freight. E-commerce volumes are also growing strongly.

He said there will never be a 50/50 balance of the two, but was confident that a 60/40 balance could be achieved and Avinor has set its sights on that figure.

To meet future demand, Langaas also said plans are coming along for a new 16,000 square metre Seafood Centre, and construction is scheduled to start in Q1 2019 with the opening sometime in 2020.

The Nordic Air Cargo Symposium was organised by Euroavia International and took place at the Clarion Hotel Sign in Stockholm. It was attended by 180 delegates from 18 countries.