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DHL’s Bahrain lease extension supports BAH’s bid for regional hub status

On Saturday, DHL Express signed an agreement to extend its lease at Bahrain International Airport (BAH) for another 10 years with Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), the company that manages BAH. The lease extension will support Bahrain’s goal to develop into a regional hub for logistics in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as part of Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 plan. 

DHL Express hosts its operations at BAH out of 57,000 square meters of facilities, with its activities accounting for 56% of the airport’s total airfreight operations. In the coming decade, DHL will have operated at the airport for half a century.  

In its Economic Vision 2030, launched in 2008, Bahrain aims to strengthen the country’s economy through economic and institutional reform and development. The program outlines plans to encourage investment in sectors beyond finance and oil, including manufacturing and logistics, through improving air connections, transportation networks, infrastructure, planning processes and security. 

Like many airports globally, BAH saw a decline in its January and February cargo volumes by 2% year-over-year during both months. However, in March, the airport saw a return to growth with a 3% increase in its cargo handle year-over-year to 26,054 tonnes. For the first quarter of the year, BAH’s total cargo handle reached 69,600 tonnes. with flat growth year-over-year following the weak volumes the first two months of the year. 

In the EMEA region, BAH competes predominantly with Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Dubai (DXB and DWC), all of which ranked among the world’s Top 50 airports and handled between 700,000 and 2.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2017. In comparison, BAH handled 288,236 tonnes of cargo total in 2018 with 0% growth year over year. 

Despite the discrepancy in size compared to larger airports in the region, BAH experiences less slot congestion than DXB and DWC, which were both designated as “level 3” congested airports in the International Air Transportation Association’s (IATA’s) 2019 airport flight slot congestion report. 

Should BAH be able to provide greater flexibility and capacity with support from its growing infrastructure, the airport could gain traction in attracting air cargo and logistics providers. Bahrain’s BAH will need to be agile and strategic in its development, however, as other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are also pursuing plans to grow their air cargo industry. 

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Chelsea Toczauer

Chelsea Toczauer is the Associate Editor of the company’s daily news and monthly magazine Air Cargo World. She holds two BAs in International Relations and Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Southern California, as well as a double accredited US-Chinese MA in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University joint degree program. Chelsea speaks Mandarin and Russian.