IF ever there was proof lobster is king of Nova Scotia seafood, it's the new US$36-million freight facility at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
The Air Cargo Logistics Park that opened earlier this month is a big bet that will continue. It's doubling cold storage capacity and adding apron space to park five 747-sized cargo planes.
"It increases the efficiency, the capacity and the ability to actually move and export more product from Nova Scotia," said Marie Manning, Halifax International Airport Authority's business development manager.
"That benefits not only the airport, but certainly all of our stakeholders, the industry and the region itself. The economic impact is significant."
Seafood accounts for 91 per cent of exports from the airport - most of it live lobsters. Last year, 12,757 tonnes of live lobsters worth $293 million were flown out of Halifax.
An anchor tenant in the new logistics park is First Catch, a Chinese company that came to Nova Scotia six years ago and is here for the long haul, reports CBC News.
"We have a 25-year lease in the building," First Catch vice-president Lister Li said "We want to work here in Halifax to make sure all our lobster has the best quality."
The company spent $9 million on its facilities at the Logistics Park, including a new cold storage room to hold shipments packed for flight.
The lobster shower, a first of its kind at a Canadian airport, can keep lobster alive under a cascade of water from a 378,000-litre reservoir that was built under the facility.
It will allow First Catch to store about 40 tonnes of live lobster for extended periods, reducing mortality in case of flight delays or cancelled orders.
"We are trying to solve problems," said Mr Li.
The industry reckons it has about 60 hours to get a live lobster from the water to its final destination or it must go into storage or be cooked.
At First Catch, live lobster can be unloaded and kept alive in plastic tubs under a cascade of water in a closed-circulation system which is the first of its kind in a Canadian airport.
The water will be drawn from a reservoir built underneath the building capable of holding 378,000 litres. First Catch has a similar but much larger facility at its hub airport in mainland China.
The other anchor tenant is Cargojet. The Canadian freight operator flies live lobster out of Halifax to Europe and Asia. The company said it's moving about 100 tonnes a week.
Andrew Leadbeater of freight management company Gateway said Halifax is positioning itself to be a hub. "The lobster has always been here. It?™s just more are moving directly out of Halifax versus going Toronto, Montreal via the trucks. So we're having more airlines," he said.
In recent years he says cargo flights for lobster have increased from one or two a week to seven - from 160 tonnes a week to about 500 tonnes.
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