Bahrain offers a cargo oasis

Although there’s no shortage of air cargo options in the Middle East, Bahrain International Airport (BIA) could be the next cargo oasis. Karen E. Thuermer explains why.

“Bahrain’s strategic position in the Gulf, with proximity to the region’s largest market, Saudi Arabia, was a critical determining factor in our original decision to locate here,” says Dave Spargo, regional director, DHL,Middle East, Bahrain.

DHL operates a hub in Bahrain, which it expanded significantly in 2005. Aramex, GAC Express and TNT also have logistics operations there.

While cargo tonnage was off significantly in 2009, for the first four months of 2010 figures indicate tonnage down only one per cent at 111,925 tonnes compared to 112,527 tonnes for the same period in 2009. For 2009, BIA’s total tonnage was 164,366 tonnes.

Gulf Air, Emirates, Qatar Air, Air France, Etihad Airways, DHL, British Airways, and Lufthansa are BIA’s major cargo carriers. Last year their throughput amounted to 64,279; 12,715; 7,149; 4,903; 5,112; 4,701; 4,583; and 2,759 tonnes, respectively.

In addition, the US Navy, which has a major naval base in the Kingdom, turned over 3,709 tonnes of air freight, largely imports in 2009. Abdul Rauf, manager business development, Bahrain International Airport Cargo Services, says approximately 80 per cent of the throughput is imports.

“Bahrain has increased its oil and gas activities, and US company, Tatweer Petroleum, is importing quite alot,” he says. In addition, Kraft Foods USA with its Tang juice and cheese spreads is a volume importer-exporter for BIA. Textiles are also big, both inbound and outbound. According to Jean-Claude Raynaud, AFKL Cargo spokesman, traffic from Inditex- Zara of Spain is significant into BIA.