Similar to the YMM passenger market, the cargo market in Fort McMurray is expanding rapidly. This growth has been in lock step with the supply chain and logistics requirements of the oil and gas industry and the accompanying economic development throughout the region. The companies involved in the activities within the oil sands region are investing tens of billions of dollars per year and require a wide range of freight shipments including urgent replacement parts, sensitive biomedical shipments, perishables to serve their day-to-day operations and the expanding population base throughout the region. Currently, the region’s freight needs are accommodated through trucking services from Edmonton and Calgary which takes five to eight hours.
Major cargo airlines (e.g. FedEx, UPS) and the world’s largest freight forwarders (e.g. Schenker, Exel, Kuehne & Nagel) are working together to consolidate loads and use, on a daily basis, multiple 53’ foot tractor trailers with a full payload from Edmonton and Calgary. The logistics for these trips are becoming increasingly difficult as they encounter service issues due to the highway congestion, safety concerns and weather conditions, as well as the rapidly expanding service region. Airlines report that upwards of 30 to 40 per cent of their daily volumes are express and parcel packages and the long-haul trucking service often falls short of their delivery requirements. FedEx and UPS have indicated that they anticipate daily service into YMM will be feasible in the near future. Early indications are that service may start with smaller aircraft, likely Cessna Caravans or other single engine feeder aircraft, but have the ability to increase to jet aircraft quickly. One of the critical planning criteria for initiation of direct cargo service to YMM is the development of dedicated cargo facility at the airport.
An air cargo strategy is currently being implemented to obtain both cargo air services and to develop facilities. Fort McMurray Airport is now officially a Port of Entry in Canada and has Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) employees on site to clear international cargo. Ultimately, the increase in economic activity and forecasted expansion of the air cargo market has created the immediate need for new on-airport cargo facilities. The airport is very interested in partnering with third party developers to construct new state-of-the-art cargo facilities and obtain support equipment such as a main deck loader that will assist the industry in meeting the growing demand for direct freighter and integrator service to Fort McMurray.