Miami International Airport cargo facilities get mammoth ramp-up
By Zachary Fagenson
Miami International Airport's cargo facilities will soon grow about 16% due to a half-a-million-square-foot warehouse rising for Centurion Air Cargo.
Another 300,000-square-foot mechanized cargo center is also on the runway for American Airlines, but that takeoff remains unscheduled.
No one from Centurion, which specializes in transporting live animal and perishables, could be reached to provide a project timeline or budget.
"They're anticipating demolition to start shortly, but they didn't give a definite date," said airport spokesman Gregory Owens. "The project is scheduled to be completed June or July 2012."
"The new cargo center will provide Centurion with 400,000 square feet of cargo space, 90 truck doors, 99,250 square feet of office space and over 500,000 square feet of exclusive ramp space for nine wide body full freighters," the company website says. "The facility is subdivided in two spaces for perishable cargo, 140,000 square feet, and space for general cargo, 260,000 square feet. The total capacity of the facility amounts to 500,000 tons per year."
Aeroterm LLC, based in Montreal, which is building the project, is "also the developer for FedEx and is now the owner of the LAN Chile facility," said airport Deputy Director Miguel Southwell.
It's rising on 56 acres on the airport's northeast corner at 36th Street and LeJeune Road.
While the project is solely for Centurion, it will boost total airport cargo space to about 3.5 million square feet, far more than needed now.
"At present there's nearly 3 million square feet of cargo warehouse space, and we have about 1.9 million annual tons of cargo," Mr. Southwell said. "For every one annual ton of cargo, from an airport planning perspective, you need one square foot of cargo" space.
Yet freight forwarders, customs brokers and cargo consolidators are always looking to get onto the airport using vacant space in its pre-built cargo city that the airport leases to them until airlines need the real estate.
"Then, of course, we would replace those nonessential airport operators with airline tenants," Mr. Southwell added. "It's a delicate balance between making sure you don't have idle real estate, but also have sufficient vacancy."
For fiscal 2009 cargo revenue hit $60.9 million, 10.6% of airport operating revenue, Mr. Southwell emailed. That included $46.7 million from rented facilities, $13 million from landing fees and $1.2 million from permits to cargo handlers.
About 484,000 short tons of cargo passed through the airport in the first quarter of 2011 and 1.99 million in 2010.
Meanwhile, American Airlines, the airport's most visible partner, has for some time been planning its own 300,000-square-foot cargo center operation.
Mr. Southwell said Flagler Development and California-based Pegasus LLC bid on the project, but that work doesn't seem atop American's priorities.
"We are looking at this, however no decisions have been made yet," said American cargo spokesperson Jennifer Pemberton, who wasn't aware of the project when first asked. "We've got quite a way to go through the approval process."
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