MONCTON – The federal government is investing $8.34-million and creating 140 temporary construction jobs to expand the cargo operational infrastructure at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport.
The airport’s cargo business has been quickly expanding in recent years, mostly because of the demand for live and fresh seafood products in China. In 2018, it posted a record for the shipment of cargo abroad, with 16 flights carrying over 1,000 tonnes of live seafood to Asia and Europe. It was the first time the airport saw a steady flow of local products being exported to international markets on large, dedicated cargo flights.
Airport CEO Bernard LeBlanc says the rapid growth makes new investments necessary. Passenger and cargo planes share runway space, he says, which restricted flights in and out of the airport for both types of traffic. The new investments will “eliminate bottlenecks” for cargo and passenger travel.
“We’ll be able handle cargo traffic 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said LeBlanc in a phone interview with Huddle. “It opens up possibilities for more growth.”
The federally funded project includes the following upgrades:
- Expanding Apron 8 to accommodate more cargo flights without affecting passenger aircraft traffic.
- Expanding the de-icing pad to allow for de-icing of cargo aircraft and passenger aircraft.
- A new de-icing fluid management system to comply with environmental regulations.
- Overhauling and reconstructing the road connecting the airport apron to cold storage and cargo staging facilities.
The new investments will help grow the live and fresh seafood exports with more regularly scheduled flights to places like China. But LeBlanc says it will also open up opportunities for other products too. For example, the airport recently received a call from Malley Industries about shipping an ambulance to Israel.
Accommodating these kinds of requests is harder when the airport has mostly chartered flights that have to work around passenger travel services, he says.
“Once you get more regularly scheduled cargo flight services, it makes it easier to ship other products as well,” said Leblanc.
LeBlanc says work could begin next spring and be completed by October of the next year.
The federal government is making these types of investments in airports that are seeing increased economic activity from cargo exports. Last November, the Halifax Stanfield International Airport received $23-million in government funding to expand its cargo facilities to reduce congestion, among other things. As in Moncton, the investment was driven by strong demand for fresh seafood in China and Europe.
Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, sayS the airport drives export growth by opening up new opportunities for local businesses.
“The Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport is a key factor in the growth of the Moncton economy,” said Petitpas Taylor in a release. “The improvements will create more options for cargo aircraft and help businesses get more products to market.”