International air freight at Canberra Airport

Access to high speed, cost effective air freight services is an increasingly valuable component of modern freight networks. Cadence Economics and Auxiem Management Consultants have analysed the impacts of international air freight facilities out of Canberra Airport for the ACT Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate.

Canberra Airport's 2014 Master Plan clearly outlines a vision to develop the airport as a facility to service the capital and surrounding region as a hub for passengers and freight. A key element of this strategy is to move beyond domestic services and look to international markets.

Canberra Airport has a number of key advantages in relation to handling international freight. It has no night-time curfew, significant runway capacity, existing tarmac side warehousing facilities, land for development, and easy access to improved road infrastructure. In addition, Canberra is close enough to both Sydney and Melbourne for express goods to be delivered by road freight while still meeting the express delivery service standards of major air freight operators.

Our report is based on a detailed assessment of international air freight movements undertaken by supply chain experts Auxiem, who provide strategic advice to freight and logistics firms in relation to both domestic and international markets (notably operating in Singapore), combined with consultation with key market participants.

Our analysis establishes that Canberra Airport's proximity to the east coast production and population centres position Canberra Airport to make a valuable contribution to the east coast freight network alongside the traditional international air freight gateways of Sydney and Melbourne.

Based on our analysis and industry consultation, three categories of international air freight scenarios are considered in relation to the investment in capacity mooted by Canberra Airport management:

  • The Existing Opportunity - Measuring the economic upside of activity already in the region

    This is narrowly focussed on freight in the "Canberra Catchment", being those areas closer to Canberra Airport than either Melbourne or Sydney. This scenario sees the shifting of international air freight originating within the Catchment but currently handled in Sydney or Melbourne to Canberra airport.

  • The Reconfiguration Opportunity - Adds the economic upside of freight network reconfiguration

    This is based on network reconfiguration, consolidating international air freight not only based on production in the Catchment but also leveraging Canberra Airport to better balance trade imbalances on individual international trade lanes from Sydney and Melbourne to international freight hubs.

  • The Catchment Exports Opportunity - Adds the economic benefits of growth in exporters in the region

    This builds on the reconfiguration opportunity as exporters across the Catchment are assumed to take advantage of additional international air freight capacity to increase export volumes.

The economic impacts of the scenarios above are significant - with net present value increases in combined gross state product across the ACT and NSW of up to $1,197 million over the period to 2030. These increases are driven both by the improved access to international markets for domestic producers, and also by the reduction in the cost of imported products.

Gross Regional Product impacts, $m, Net Present Value to 2030

Catchment ACT ACT + NSW
Existing opportunity$175m$157m$225m
Reconfiguration opportunity$442m$394m$933m
Catchment Exports opportunity$717m$388m$1,197m

Employment impacts, average Full Time Equivalent to 2030

Catchment ACT ACT + NSW
Existing opportunity10194108
Reconfiguration opportunity339296470
Catchment Exports opportunity428293548

The economic impacts of the scenarios above are significant - with net present value increases in combined gross state product across the ACT and NSW of up to $1,197 million over the period to 2030. These increases are driven both by the improved access to international markets for domestic producers, and also by the reduction in the cost of imported products.

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