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Hamilton Economic Development

Cargo carrier flies record load through Hamilton

Hamilton airport’s largest cargo carrier has notched its biggest single volume of freight in a single day.

In the run-up to Christmas, Cargojet Airways Ltd. moved more than 850,000 pounds of goods through its Hamilton facility in a single day earlier this week — a record. On an average night, it moves one million pounds across its entire North American network.

As busy as Thursday was, Cargojet executive vice-president and co-founder Jamie Porteous expects Monday to be even busier.

“Twenty years ago, the busy season used to start just after Labour Day, then as e-commerce started to develop, it was condensed into a couple of weeks in December,” he said. “In 2009 and ’10, when the economy was down, we’d be at Dec. 15 wondering when it was going to start, but now we’ve had seven consecutive quarters of volume growth.”

That growth, Porteous said, is only a fraction of what the company hopes to achieve in 2015 as it doubles its capacity and gains the benefits of a new $12-million cargo terminal under construction at the airport.

Cargojet will take up a half of the new 70,000-square-foot terminal. The building features 16 truck-loading bays, dedicated merchandise and courier handling areas, secured customs areas and refrigerated areas for perishables such as flowers, produce and pharmaceuticals. It will also include facilities to handle live animals.

The new terminal will also feature space for shippers to assemble cargo from different areas or break up skids of goods for shipment to numerous final destinations.

Currently, Porteous said, some of Cargojet’s clients have freight brought into Hamilton by air and then have to truck it to another location to be sorted and shipped to its final destination. If that work could be done at Hamilton airport, close to highways and away from the gridlock of the Toronto area, everyone stands to benefit.

“This is something that could help them improve their service by hours,” he said. “Once we have this terminal in operation, I see it being filled up quickly and very soon we’ll be talking about expanding it.”

Frank Scremin, president of John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, has said the new terminal should be in operation by the second quarter of 2015.

Another major boost to Cargojet’s growth was its selection earlier this year as the air freight operator for Purolator and Canada Post. That deal is expected to bring the company $1 billion in revenue over its seven-year life.

Based on that contract and its recent growth, the company has doubled its fleet to 24 aircraft since the end of 2013.

The company has also doubled its share price over the past 12 months. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $13.14 to $26.65 on the TSX. On Friday, it was at $24.40, down 70 cents, in afternoon trading.

Cargojet’s rapid growth is also translating into new jobs with the company. It has about 300 of its 500 employees, including pilots, working from Hamilton airport and anticipates hiring another 100 by May. The jobs will be in air operations and ground cargo handling.

“We’re going to have to hold a job fair early in the new year,” Porteous said.

Growth isn’t free: Cargojet has invested $300 million in new aircraft, equipment and facilities in the past year. Those costs have had an impact on the company’s bottom line. To the end of its 2014 third quarter, it reported revenue of more than $135.2 million and EBITDA (a measure of profit before taxes and other items) of almost $5.1 million.

On the average day, Cargojet’s freight can include anything from East Coast lobsters bound for Germany to groceries and snowmobile parts for Nunavut to auto parts and the full range of consumer goods being rushed across the country before Christmas.

The company also handled through Hamilton every piece of the polymer used to make Canada’s new currency.

In addition to cargo handling and maintenance facilities, Cargojet’s Hamilton operations include its dispatch and control functions as well as bunkhouses for its male and female pilots when they’re on standby or layovers.

“We’re the most dominant cargo airline in Canada right now because nobody else can do what we do,” Porteous added. “Despite that, we’ve been a fairly low-key operation in Hamilton for the last 15 years.”

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator

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