Halifax Stanfield International Airport has added 17,000 square metres of space for cargo aircraft to load an anticipated $15 million worth of Atlantic lobster expected to be shipped by the end of the month.
Lobster and other seafood exports are in high demand during the Christmas season, says Bert van der Stege, vice president of business development and chief commercial officer for the Halifax International Airport Authority, making this the busiest time of year for cargo shipments at the airport.
“Exporting live lobsters is a key component—if not the key component—for cargo business at the airport,” says van der Stege. “That’s really what we’re focusing on in terms of growing cargo volumes.”
The value of lobster and other seafood exports shipped through the airport totalled $149 million in 2015, accounting for roughly one third of the $447 million in exports overall. Halifax airport saw a 20 per cent surge in exports last year compared to 2014, largely thanks to an additional $57 million in lobster and seafood exports.
Van der Stege says the airport’s new parking and loading area will allow for the prompt transport of seafood products in a very time-sensitive business, with customers as far away as Europe, Asia and the Middle East preferring to get their lobsters within 24 hours of leaving Halifax.
“It is a key focus for us to ensure that we can export those lobsters in a timely fashion to various parts of the world,” van der Stege says. “Quality is extremely important … and that’s why we think transporting the lobsters by air is the most efficient and effective way.”
The cargo area took about four months and cost approximately $5 million to build, but the project’s pricetag will pay for itself in attracting new cargo operators to Halifax airport to do business in Nova Scotia, says van der Stege.
“We’re really investing in our future,” he says. “Each cargo flight that leaves Halifax Stanfield generates approximately one million dollars in exports for the province, so we really see our investment as a way to contribute to the local economy.”
According to federal government figures, Canada exported 82,700 metric tonnes of lobster in 2015, totalling $2.03 billion in revenue.