4th largest container line CMA CGM steams into air cargo

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French logistics and ocean shipping company CMA CGM makes bold move into air freight operations, with the introduction of services using A330-200Fs.

This is not the first foray skyward for the ocean-focused company, is the CMA CGM Group took a 30 per cent stake in French airline company Groupe Dubreuil Aero in September 2020. Dubreuil Aero owns the Air Caraibes and French Bee lines, which operate between mainland France and overseas French territories.

At the time, Group chairman and CEO, Rodolphe Saade said the acquisition would “enable the CMA CGM Group to strengthen its position in air freight.”

The new CMA CGM Air Cargo division is in response to what the world’s fourth largest container shipping line says is growing demand from its customers for “agile solutions”.

The CMA CGM Group goes on to say that this move into air freight strengthens its transport and logistics business, allowing it to offer its customers “a new range of comprehensive, agile and customised solutions”.

The CMA CGM Group says it is buying the four 60-tonne-payload A330-200F freighter aircraft, which came into service between 2014 and 2016. While it did not disclose who it was buying the freighters from, Qatar Airways Cargo recently indicated it was removing the last of its four A330-200Fs in January, after selling a fifth to the Hungarian government for its Covid-19 vaccine shipping needs.

CMA CGM says it will entrust the operation of its freighter fleet to an unspecified European airline. While it is possible the four aircraft will be operated by Groupe Dubreuil Aero, in which the ocean carrier has a 30 per cent stake, a number of pundits instead point to Air Belgium, which said at the end of January that it intended to introduce four freighters out of Liege (LGG) by March, with the number increasing to six by the end of 2021.

Rodolphe Saadé, chairman and CEO of the CMA CGM Group, says: “In response to the growing demand from our customers for agile logistics solutions, we are creating a new division within the CMA CGM Group dedicated to air transport: CMA CGM Air Cargo.

“This division will launch with four Airbus A330-200F aircraft and will leverage commercial partnerships with airlines in order to deliver global coverage. This is a major milestone in the development of our logistics services.”

CMA CGM is the fourth largest shipping company by cargo capacity at 2.7 million TEU. It has an annual revenue of around USD 23.5 billion and it serves more than 420 of the world’s 521 commercial ports with its fleet of 509 vessels.

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