The continued growth of seafood volumes in the Nordics is pushing more companies to consider launching direct freighter services to the region.
The latest company to study the potential for a freighter service is Saudia Airlines Cargo, which is holding meetings over the coming days with potential customers regarding the possibility of a service.
The calls in central Europe and Saudi Arabia would help offset the fact that very few imports into Oslo are carried on freighters by offering the chance to transport goods from Saudi Arabia and central Europe to New York, with the rest of the freighter available for seafood.
“However, it could be a while before the service is launched. Ahead of any potential new operation the airline will finalise a feasibility study, agree on detailed handling and operational processes, establish a 24/7 communication system, develop pre-agreed back-up solutions, define the potential day of operation and operate a test flight.
Marine Harvest head of airfreight Tom Erling Mikkelsen said: “Last year, we can see that total [salmon] volumes grew to many regions. The Far East was up 13%, the US up 23% and also you can see that we are producing more than 1m tonnes in Norway. That is the total market.
“The biggest growth was to the US, while the biggest country was Japan. If we look at this year, you can see that the biggest country so far this year is the US, which has now passed Japan.”
China and Hong Kong combined had also jumped ahead of Japan this year.
He added that volumes to Vietnam had declined so far in 2018, but this was down to the fact that China has removed an embargo, meaning salmon can be transported directly to the country.
According to the Norwegian Seafood Council, salmon volumes increased by 2.8% last year, but long-haul destinations, which require airfreight, tended to record strong growth while exports to the European Union, which can be trucked, saw a decrease.
Mikkelsen said one challenge presented by the rapid growth was finding enough capacity to meet demand. Like many sectors, seafood suffered from a lack of air cargo space during last year’s peak season, he said.
Last year, Oslo Airport saw volumes rise by 35% year on year to 185,000 tonnes, fuelled by seafood exports.
In September last year, DHL began operating twice-weekly Boeing 747-400 flights from Oslo to Seoul and Shanghai in order to satisfy demand for Norwegian seafood in those markets.