A.P. Moller-Maersk has opened a 123,000-square-foot air freight station near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to support quicker international shipping for customers in the Southeast, the ocean shipping giant announced Wednesday.
The warehouse, which will also serve as a forward staging point for Maersk’s dedicated freighter hub at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) in South Carolina, is the latest step in Maersk’s one-year buildout of a U.S. air network — part of a larger transformation into a global logistics integrator.
Last year, Maersk consolidated airfreight forwarding and an existing private airline under the Maersk Air Cargo brand to give businesses more seamless logistics options.
The freight forwarding arm arranges shipments for customers on passenger and third-party cargo airlines, while the in-house cargo airline can directly carry products for shippers with large loads or other requirements. By controlling its own capacity, Maersk can deliver more reliable service and fly to smaller, less crowded airports where shipments can be processed without delay.
The new air gateway is 2 miles from the Atlanta airport in the Tradeport Foreign Trade Zone, which offers reduced processing fees and duties, with direct access to two major interstate highways. Having a facility increases routing options and flexibility for customers, Maersk officials say.
In its capacity as a freight forwarder, Maersk will offer direct recovery of freight at Hartsfield-Jackson airport as it comes off the aircraft in pallets or containers. Logistics companies usually collect commercial shipments after they have been processed through a transfer facility operated by an airline’s ground-handling agent but often make arrangements for direct truck collection when full charters loaded with their own freight are involved.
“Maersk is strengthening our promise to customers of integrated, end-to-end logistics solutions by growing our air freight services in a strategic transportation hub. Our Atlanta facility enhances our offering, providing customers with superior supply chain flexibility supported by our expanded regional capabilities in warehousing and transportation,” said John Wetherell, regional head of air freight, North America, in a news release. “We will be able to leverage this connectivity to bolster our air freight network” worldwide.
Maersk, along with fellow ocean carrier CMA CGM, is moving away from simply hauling containers from port to port by offering holistic supply chain services that can deliver more value through long-term customer relationships. Air cargo is a big part of that strategy.
Atlanta is the largest passenger airport in the world and handles large amounts of domestic and international freight.
Maersk said the bonded customs facility in Atlanta is well suited for local and regional distribution. It has 39 dock doors and two oversized drive-up ramps, and it is certified by the Transportation Security Administration to screen cargo.
Maersk currently operates eight freighters per week to Greenville-Spartanburg airport, a secondary airport that has attracted cargo business in recent years as an alternative gateway to congested airports such as Atlanta. GSP is a three-hour truck drive from Atlanta. Five of the flights are Boeing 747s chartered by Maersk from all-cargo carriers bringing imports from Frankfurt, Germany.
Maersk Air Cargo’s airline unit in April began operating two Boeing 767-300 cargo jets from Shenyang, China, to GSP, following the initial service from Seoul that began Oct. 31. The China route now stops in Seoul. The planes are owned by Maersk but operated by Miami-based Amerijet.
Last fall, Maersk opened a smaller air gateway near Chicago O’Hare International Airport that also serves as a staging facility for dedicated cargo jets operating to Chicago Rockford International Airport, about 70 miles to the northwest, where Maersk leases an airside terminal.
Maersk in June significantly increased freighter capacity despite prolonged weakness in the overall air cargo market, which has seen demand drop 7% to 10% since early 2022 and rates fall nearly 50% in some regions.
The carrier doubled its weekly rotations connecting Chicago Rockford and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport in China from three to six and added a frequency on the Shenyang-Seoul-GSP route. The air service between Billund Airport in Denmark and Hangzhou, which launched in March, increased from three to five weekly rotations after Maersk deployed a newly converted 767-300 freighter leased from Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG) in the U.S. Maersk’s own pilots fly the Billund-Hangzhou route.
Maersk’s fleet includes two factory-built 767s purchased last year plus three converted freighters received on lease this year. In total, Maersk has 19 767s in service, most of them in Europe providing dedicated service to express parcel operators.
In related news, Maersk also broke ground Wednesday on a 1.1 million-square-foot omnichannel fulfillment center in Singapore, with direct highway access to the Tuas Mega Port and Changi International Airport. The distribution center is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2025.
The new e-commerce facility is near Maersk’s World Gateway 1, Singapore’s largest automated and customs-bonded warehouse. The new multistory distribution center, with space for 30,000 pallets, is designed with extensive automation and robotics to support cross-border shipping across Southeast Asia for online sellers of footwear and apparel, beauty and wellness, luxury fashion, and other products, Maersk said.