Tianjin~ The next big thing

While much of the world¡¯s attention is focused on Beijing¡¯s new US$3 billion airport terminal, the rise of another airport some 100 km to the southeast is quietly picking up steam and attracting the likes of Lufthansa and Korean Air. Donald Urquhart reports.

The Tianjin Binhai International Airport is set to become Northern China’s air cargo gateway for the greater Beijing area as cargo operations are gradually shifted out of the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) in order for it to becomeprimarily a passenger hub.

The other key driver behind the Tianjin airport’s rapid ascent is the development of the 2,270 square kilometre Binhai New Area (BNA) which has been identified by the Chinese central government as the next growth engine for China. The area is expected to match the economic growth achieved by Shanghai’s Pudong New Area on China’s eastern seaboard, as well asSouth China’s Pearl River Delta area.

Some US$26 billion in foreign investment has already been poured into the BNA with some 4,000 global companies, mostly manufacturing like electronics, telecommunications and pharmaceutical companies – all of which use air freight – currently operating there. Another 10,000 domestic companies have also set up shop within the BNA. The pace of foreign investment is expected to pick up with government officials saying they anticipate another US$20 billion to be invested overthe next five years.

In order to support the economic growth of the area, the Binhai International Airport is being upgraded into a North China air hub including new passenger and cargo terminals and a second runway expected to be operational before end-2008. Passenger volume is expected to surge from 2.15 million in 2005 to 6.5 million in 2010 and cargo volumes are forecast to jump from 87,000 tonnes to over 450,000tonnes during the same period.