If you were given almost unlimited space and funds to design an airport, what would it look like? How much greater efficiency would your operation enjoy, if you could plan where your warehouses and sorting areas are sited before a runaway is even paved?
This may be a fever dream for many logistics professionals, but it’s become close to reality over the last decade in the United Arab Emirates, where Al-Maktoum International Airport, also known as Dubai World Central (DWC), has risen from the barren desert southwest of Dubai’s skyscrapers.
Designed to be more than just another airport, DWC, open since 2010, but still not completed, will eventually be a city unto itself, only with an airport at its heart. In addition to the five runways, 200 widebody aircraft stands and an eight-square-kilometer cargo facility to handle a staggering 16 million tonnes of cargo per year, DWC lies at the heart of what its planners call an “aerotropolis,” an entire city replete with commercial and residential facilities built around a central airport. The site is also located within the Jebel Ali Free Zone, a vast bonded economic region that stretches north to connect DWC with the bustling port of Jebel Ali, near Abu Dhabi. This US$32 billion city, recently dubbed “Dubai South,” has an area almost twice the size of the island of Hong Kong, but it is not yet half-completed. One part of the eventual Dubai South aerotropolis, for example, is the to-be built Dubai Logistics City, where more than 1.5 million square meters of support facilities will house an entire economy’s worth of aviation and logistics businesses.
Last June, Al Maktoum International celebrated its sixth anniversary since an Emirates SkyCargo 777F from Hong Kong became the first to land at DWC. Since then, Dubai South has been steadily growing as more traffic gets diverted from Dubai’s older, overcrowded hub, Dubai International (DXB). Every year, more arrive at DWC – at last count, 19 scheduled and charter passenger carriers operate there, plus the freighter operations of six more major carriers, including Cathay Pacific Cargo, China Airlines Cargo, Etihad Cargo, Kalitta Air, Qatar Airways Cargo and Turkish Airlines Cargo.
But beyond jaw-dropping figures and projections, less is known about the realities facing the cluster of forwarders and 3PLs that have sprung up in Dubai South’s freight forwarding nerve center, known as Dubai Logistics City. Adjacent to the new airport, this agglomeration of businesses has grown to include the most high-tech warehousing infrastructure in the world, attracting names like DB Schenker, Panalpina and Hellman Worldwide Logistics. And with the ever-growing population of forwarders comes the risk of overcrowding and traffic, despite the vast acreage of DWC. Will DWC be the cargo airport that logistics executives dream about?
For more about innovations in airport design, join us for networking and discussion at Air Cargo World’s new ELEVATE 2016 Conference, Oct. 10, in Miami.