MidAmerica St. Louis Airport has inked a deal with Ningbo Lishe International Airport to establish a trade route between the Americas and the Zhejiang Province of China. The partnership has been in the works since January, but officials unveiled it at TIACA’s Air Cargo Forum in Atlanta. Cargo flights will kick off in December, but the carriers involved have yet to be announced.
MidAmerica St. Louis Airport Director Tim Cantwell told Air Cargo World that Ningbo airport is currently selecting a carrier to perform the Asian east-west route, while MidAmerica is in final talks with the north-south carrier. He said it’s a unique approach since airports typically don’t connect buyers and sellers.
“But we’re small enough and hungry enough that we’re trying new things,” Cantwell said. “And we’re finding new freight and new export markets.” Selling perishable exports to China will be MidAmerica’s bread-and-butter, he revealed.
North Bay Produce Inc., which opened a $5.7 million perishable warehouse at MidAmerica in June, will be one of the first benefactors of the new route, Cantwell said. The Mich.-based company selected St. Louis as its distribution point for its produce items, which travel from as far as Uruguay to Northern Canada. “And with perishables going in and out, we can host imports and exports with 36,000 square feet of perishables, and our main part is to do perishables foods to China,” Cantwell told Air Cargo World.
Ningbo airport is also doing its part to prepare for the influx of cargo traffic. As part of a $1.3 billion airport renovation initiative, the airport has committed to building a 164,042-square-foot airfreight terminal. Ningbo will also comply with MidAmerica Fresh standards, Cantwell asserted.
“So Ningbo is a second-tier airport, but they’re in a premier perishables center with their [billion-dollar] advancement in their improvements,” he added.