RiverOak Strategic Partners acquired Manston Airport (MSE) for £16.5 million in a transaction that was completed earlier this week, Director George Yerrall confirmed to Air Cargo World.
The U.K.-registered company, which has spent over £30 million on the acquisition so far, plans to convert the site to a cargo hub. Yerrall said RiverOak anticipates a late 2021 opening, taking into consideration that RiverOak can’t begin construction unless the U.K. government approves the project. The decision is expected in January.
A runway is the only existing infrastructure at the site, according to Yerrall. RiverOak plans to build the airport, with all corresponding cargo and control facilities, around the runway. The company also plans to build infrastructure for special cargo but hasn’t decided what type of shipments it should target yet. Yerrall said that they’re waiting for “a better feeling for what the makeup is.”
The airport will be filling a need for cargo capacity in southeast England, he pointed out, so they expect a lot of “bread and butter cargo.” He added, “The market reading is that there are customers for this.”
RiverOak’s purchase was met with overall enthusiasm from the community in the Thanet district in southeast England. Reinvigorating the airport is expected to directly and indirectly provide more than 20,000 jobs, according to a 2018 Azimuth report commissioned by RiverOak.
Thanet District Council has been “supportive of the return of aviation to Manston” and expects recent developments “will prove to be beneficial to the district and its residents,” Robert Bayford, leader of the council, said in a statement.
On the other hand, some residents have noise concerns, according to a summary of the purchase case. RiverOak has plans to mitigate that – among other things, Air Transport Movements (ATMs) will be limited to 26,468 per year, as compared to 475,624 at Heathrow (LHR) in 2018. There will also be a ban on aircraft flying between 11 PM and 6 AM, except for emergency and humanitarian aircraft, and late arrivals.
RiverOak did not gain full access to the site to assess construction costs until the transaction was completed earlier this week, Yerall explained. He said that the early estimate for costs required to transform Manston into a cargo hub is £300 million.