Energy exploration offers opportunities

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With the world’s thirst for oil and gas running largely unabated, the exploration of these commodities continues to provide benefits for cargo carriers equipped to handle the often large and odd-sized equipment needed in far-flung locales.

Much of that equipment is manufactured in the U.S., with Houston among the world’s largest – if not the largest – manufacturing centers for oil and gas exploration equipment. Nearly 500 equipment suppliers to the energy sector have operations in the Houston area, and many of them ship their products by air to oil exploration regions such as Africa and the Middle East.

A growing number of air carriers and logistics firms see opportunity in Houston and are either investing in facilities or adding or considering operations in the Texas energy capital.

Lufthansa Cargo is among the carriers serving Houston that are increasing capacity. About 70 percent of its outbound cargo departing from Houston is oil field equipment. Lufthansa operates three freighter flights weekly and also uses belly capacity on its daily passenger flights. The airline’s Boeing 777 freighter made its first flight to Houston last December as part of a ramping up to serve increased oil and gas demands. Lufthansa also serves other key oil and gas equipment regions, including Singapore and Oslo.

On June 15, Saudia Cargo re-launched a weekly 747 nose-loader freighter service from Houston to Saudia Arabia. The airline said Houston is a key market due to the oil industry and plans to add a second weekly flight in September.

Cargolux and Cathay Pacific are also among the carriers lifting energy production equipment out of the Houston area. Another 747 nose-loader specialist, AirBridgeCargo, tells Air Cargo World that it is also considering adding a Houston route to its growing U.S. presence.

Another recent development involves supply chain specialist UTi Worldwide, which opened a global hub and freight forwarding facility focusing on the energy sector. The facility is located near Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Air Charter Service opened a Houston office in May, citing the company’s increasing number of cargo clients in the oil and gas industry in the region. “Our North American operations grew by 30 percent last year, and based on the increased demand we have seen from our customers around the Houston area, we wanted to better serve them with a more local presence,” Chris Leach, ACS founder and chairman, said.

In a period where carriers chase every available piece of cargo, expect more carriers, brokers and logistics firms to expand offerings in the Houston region.

John W. McCurry is editor of Air Cargo World.
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