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Krasnoyarsk in Russia is used as a central Asian stop-off by Lufthansa’s cargo division. Image courtesy of Lufthansa Cargo.

Central Asian points

As a transit stop, Navoi is facing fi erce competition from other airports in Central Asia, including three in neighbouring Kazakhstan – Astana, Almaty and Karagandy. Plus, due to operational constraints most operators use a combination of airports in the region rather than concentrating their traffi c at one point. Older cargo aircraft like the MD-11 or the B747-200 do not have the range to fl y the sector between Europe and the Asia-Pacifi c region non-stop. The B747- 400ERF can make the journey without refuelling, but its operators face charges for overfl ying Russia. This means it also makes more sense for them to stop en route, says Stan Wraight, managing partner in Strategic Aviation Solutions International and former chief executive of Russian cargo airline AirBridgeCargo.

Lufthansa uses Almaty, Karagandy

and Krasnoyarsk, while Cargolux uses three Central Asian points. “Even though the service at Karagandy is good, we don’t have immediate expansion plans as we are well served at our main Central Asian hub (Baku) and our secondary point (Almaty),” explains senior vice president, Robert Van De Weg. Almaty currently handles 49 widebody freighters going to China a week and Astana also has a signifi cant operation. The latter, however, suffered a setback when Lufthansa Cargo, which had been using the airport as its main hub in the region, agreed to move over to Krasnoyarsk, following a tussle with the Russian authorities over traffi c rights through Siberian air space. Since July 2009, the German carrier has used Krasnoyarsk as its chief transit point on its Asian routes. It now slots 38–40 fl ights a week through the Siberian airport, while another 10 are routed over Almaty. According to Wraight, Karagandy is the rising star among the Kazakh trio, with a client base that includes Cargolux, Aerofl ot Cargo, Air Cargo Germany, Lufthansa Cargo and Jade Cargo International. With the backing of the Kazakh government, $40 million was invested between 2006 and 2008 to develop new cargo infrastructure, including a new cargo terminal and ground equipment. The 3,595sqm cargo building, which has cold-storage rooms and in-bond storage facilities can handle 48,000 tonnes of freight plus 7,000 tonnes of cargo in a year. Karagandy has a 3,600m runway, a 4,662sqm hangar and a maintenance centre for MD-11 and B747 aircraft.

Limited local market

Central Asian airports and ground operators are eager to draw in freighters for more than just refuelling, as the investments in Navoi and Karagandy demonstrate. However, the regions

they serve are not powerhouses for export, nor big consumers of airfreight commodities like high-tech electronics or pharmaceuticals.

“All these points make good tech stops, but what are you going to load there? There is no demand for export capacity,” remarks Aviainform’s Steiger.

For instance, Cathay Pacifi c eschews Central Asian tech stops for its European freighter fl ights. Instead, they are routed over Mumbai, Delhi and Dubai. In addition to fi lling up the freighters there, Cathay takes advantage of cargo to and from India and uses Dubai as a distribution point for the Middle East and Africa. Cathay’s general manager of cargo sales and service, James Woodrow says: “Airports like Navoi or Karagandy would largely only be of interest as tech stops. This might occur where Cathay wanted to provide 100% of our capacity from Asia to a particular European gateway. Their advantage over India or Dubai would have to be on a total cost basis – fuel, landing and overfl y charges.”

Some Central Asian destinations need freighters to move equipment for oil and gas exploration, but Steiger says this industry has begun to use less airfreight. Kazakhstan is an example where there is a distinct split between import and export markets. Energy exploration that generates some outbound loads is mainly in the western part of the country, whereas the consumer centres – Almaty and Astana – are in the east, Coyne says. Wraight believes economic developments are moving in the right direction to strengthen the need for cargo capacity.

“Lots of things favour these gateways, in particular the rapid development of oil and gas, minerals and the infl ux of capital that those bring. They are moving quickly to diversify the economies to make them


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