Growth at DWC propels region’s operators

Construction is underway at Dubai World Central’s Aviation District, an area designed to cater to businesses serving the two-year-old airport. In a press release, DWC announced that Majestic Wings Private Airplane Charter, LLC, will move into a 7,360-square-meter plot at the Aviation District in mid-2013, making it the first major company to set up shop.

Majestic Wings, which will develop a hangar facility at DWC, joins a growing list of companies that have been authorized to set up fixed-base operations and move into the Aviation District, according to the press release. Plus, DWC officials revealed, leasing negotiations have begun with fixed-base operators and other aviation businesses. Still, Dubai Aviation City Corp. Executive Chairman Khalifa Al Zaffin remarked, the presence of Majestic Wings at DWC’s Aviation District is especially noteworthy. “The addition of Majestic Wings … is a positive step toward bolstering DWC’s long-term strategy and the aviation industry in general,” Al Zaffin said in a statement.

“DWC reflects the Dubai government’s vision of diversification and sustainable economic growth through a long-term, multi-phased plan contributing to economic, social and infrastructure land development,” he continued.

DWC’s operations have also been bolstered by the presence of dnata, Emirates Airline’s ground-handling subsidiary. In fact, dnata handled 127,665 tonnes of cargo at FreightGate-8 — its terminal at DWC — during fiscal 2011-2012; this translates to a 700-percent, year-over-year, increase. dnata also saw exponential growth in the number of active freight flights it handled on the ramp and in FreightGate-8 during the financial year. According to a press release, the cargo-handling company assisted 2,832 flights during this period, a 600-percent increase from fiscal year 2010-2011.

One of these flights, in particular, will always stand out in the minds of the dnata team. The company recently handled a 95-tonne, purpose-built gas turbine en route to Nigeria — the heaviest piece of freight ever handled by any of the dnata FreightGate cargo terminals and ramp teams, according to the press release. Stuart Hayman, vice president of cargo operations for dnata, elaborated on this achievement, stating that “it has been a year of records being set and then just as quickly being exceeded.”

Other outsize cargo pieces handled by the dnata team in fiscal year 2011-2012 included a 25-tonne turbine generator and heavy vehicles weighing nearly 30 tonnes apiece. “The movement of these consignments has required specialized coordination with customers and a strong collaborative effort from both the dnata team and local authorities to ensure that the handling was managed efficiently and to the customers’ satisfaction,” according to the press release.

Hayman said the unique loads witnessed throughout the year led to the team’s adoption of a new motto: “If it fits into an airplane, then dnata’s FreightGate-8 and ramp operations teams can handle it safely and securely.” dnata’s success at FreightGate-8 also drove its profitability for theentire fiscal year, with 2011 marking its most lucrative year to date.

According to a press release issued by parent company Emirates, dnata’s revenues totaled AED7 billion in 2011, a 59 percent, year-over-year, surge. This double-digit increase also lead to considerable growth for the carrier’s cargo arm, Emirates SkyCargo, last year. Although cargo volumes lagged around the globe in 2011, Emirates SkyCargo saw revenues of AED9.5 billion last year, an 8.4 percent, year-over-year, gain. The cargo carrier also reported a 5.4 percent, year-over-year,rise in freight-tonne kilometers, according to the press release.

In total, Emirates SkyCargo handled 1,796,000 tonnes of freight last year, a 1.7 percent, year-over-year, increase. Contributing to this growth was an uptick in the number of the carrier’s routings, with Emirates SkyCargo launching service to several new destinations in 2011, including Ghana. The carrier, which commenced weekly Boeing 747-400F service to Kotoka International Airport in November, hopes that the flight will bolster trade links between the United Arab Emirates and West Africa.

Iraq was also on Emirates SkyCargo’s radar last year, with the carrier launching twice-weekly freight service to the northern city of Erbil. This destination complemented Emirates SkyCargo’s existing route to Basra, Iraq, which it began in February 2011. Oil and gas equipment were the key commodities carried on these flights, according to the press release.

But while the petroleum sector was a great boon for Emirates SkyCargo in one capacity, it hindered its bottom line in another. Emirates Airline CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum revealed that the carrier saw its highest fuel bill last year, a problem compounded by the volatility in exchange rates. Even so, he said, Emirates Airline achieved its 24th consecutive year of profitability in 2011.

“Retaining growth and remaining profitable in these challenging economic times shows our profound understanding of the markets that we do business in,” Sheikh Ahmed added.

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