Germany-based Siemens Postal, Parcel & Airport Logistics (SPPAL) is understood to have started the first phase of the expansion of Jeddah airport’s airfreight centre, which is expected to double its current cargo handling capacity.

Signed in June, the contract with Saudi Airlines Cargo Company (SACC) covers the installation and long-term maintenance of cargo logistics and intelligent software.

Once completed, the cargo centre will have a 75,000 square-metre cargo handling capacity, which is twice its current capacity. It is also expected to handle 820,000 tonnes of cargo annually.

MEED understands the initial phase of the project ends by November next year, while the final phase will be completed by December 2021.

Siemens said it is implementing a fully automated storage system with 700 positions for unit load devices (ULDs) and six elevating transfer vehicles (ETVs) at the facility.

It is understood the cargo centre has 33 conveyor lines that form the interface to the airside. It also has around 50 build-up and break-down workstations for containers of various sizes.

The first commercial flight landed on 29 May at Jeddah’s new King Abdulaziz International airport, marking the beginning of a four-phase launch plan for the $7.2bn facility.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) expects the airport to enter full commercial operations early next year, according to local media reports.

Gaca is presiding over the airport’s soft launch following the termination in February of the 20-year operation and management contract it awarded in April 2017 to Changi Airports Saudi Arabia (Casa), a joint venture of Singapore-based Changi Airports International (CAI) and local firm Saudi Naval Services.

King Abdulaziz International airport is Saudi Arabia’s largest in terms of passenger traffic, handling 34 million passengers in 2017, a 9 per cent increase on 2016.

The airport redevelopment began in 2010 when Gaca awarded local Saudi Binladin Group two contracts worth a combined $7.2bn for the overhaul of the existing airport terminal and the construction of a new one. The new terminal has a design capacity of 30 million passengers annually.

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