How the Caribbean is positioning itself as a cargo gateway


Photo: ©Joao Carlos Medau

This coming February, when most of the Northern Hemisphere is locked in another dreary winter, a 777-200LR is expected to touch down at Tocumen International Airport, packed with 256 passengers. The crowded flight will be of no sur­prise, as the destination is Panama City, Panama, a languid tropical setting that many northerners dream of visiting in mid-winter.

What’s unusual will be the origin of the flight: Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The daily flight, operated by Emirates Airlines, will cover roughly 13,800 kilo­meters, which is currently considered the longest scheduled nonstop flight – 17 hours, 35 minutes. Even more important to freight forwarders in the area will be the 15 tons of belly capac­ity that each flight will contain.

“Panama City will be our first des­tination gateway in Central America,” read a statement from Emirates after the new route was announced in Au­gust. The daily 777 will also open up the entire Caribbean region to the vast global air cargo network operated by Emirates.

Upon mention of the Caribbean, most people think of idyllic white-sand beaches, Hollywood pirates, the magi­cal sound of steel drums, a handsomely crafted rum cocktail. But the region ringed by Central America, the north­ern coast of South America and an arc of island nations stretching toward the tip of South Florida – is more than a picturesque vacation spot. It is becom­ing a key jumping-off point for cargo flights between the Americas and the rest of the world, including Europe, Africa and now the Middle East.

As the old Jamaican saying goes: “Alligator lay egg, but him nu fowl.” Things are not always as they seem.

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