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Incheon celebrates 22nd birthday as a leading cargo and logistics hub


Incheon International Airport (ICN) today celebrates its 22nd anniversary, just a few weeks after handling its 100 millionth transfer passenger.

The number of transfer passengers at Incheon Airport has steadily increased since recording 1.63 million passengers at the time of its opening in 2001, reaching 7.23 million passengers in 2019.

In 2021, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number plummeted to around 540,000. However, in 2022, it grew by 400% compared to the previous year, recording 2.71 million passengers, showing a fast recovery trend compared to competing airports in China and Japan.

The world’s second-largest logistics hub in Northeast Asia

Incheon Airport, which has continuously developed logistics infrastructure and networks, is also elevating its status as a Northeast Asian logistics hub airport, processing the second-largest amount of international cargo in the world both in 2021 and 2022.

The 107 cargo-only routes in 43 countries served by 25 airlines from Incheon include 20 destinations in China, six in Japan, 10 in Southeast Asia, 27 in North America, 5 in Central and South America and 18 in Europe.

Including passenger planes, Incheon Airport’s aviation network connects 152 cities in 53 countries 365 days a year without stopping.

Steady investment in logistics infrastructure and prompt response to logistics trends

Operator, Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC), claims that “constant investment in logistics infrastructure development and rapid response to the latest logistics trends” have proved key in the steady growth of air cargo at the South Korean gateway.

It notes that the Incheon Free Economic Zone, which includes the Incheon Airport Logistics Complex and cargo terminal areas, provides customers with a more competitive environment through convenient customs procedures, tariff benefits, and various incentives.

Its facilities are expected to be boosted by the addition a large-scale global distribution centre (GDC) for e-commerce. Work on $28 million complex is anticipated to start later this year and, when fully completed, the GDC is expected to create around 240 jobs as it generates some 8,000 tons of cargo and attracts more than $20 million in revenue.

IATA CEIV Fresh certification and CEIV Pharma recertification

As demand for high-value air cargo, such as bioscience and cold chain, continues to grow, the Incheon International Airport Community, consisting of Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, and global logistics company DB Schenker Korea, obtained certification for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) in June 2019.

In addition, the Incheon International Airport Community, consisting of IIAC, Asiana Airlines, LX Pantos, and Seoul Airport Cargo, also obtained certification for the IATA Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Perishable Logistics (CEIV Fresh) on November 22, 2022.

IATA CEIV Fresh is an international standard certification system introduced by IATA in 2019 to ensure stable air transportation quality for fresh cargo under strict cold chain management.

The airport notes that it is currently in the process of obtaining IATA CEIV Lithium Battery (CEIV Li-Batt) Certification, which was introduced to solve transportation accidents of lithium batteries in the global air cargo market.

“We will make every effort to become the best in the world not only in the passenger sector but also in the air cargo sector,” said an IIAC statement.

“To achieve this, we are pursuing a business of expanding cargo terminals of world-renowned airlines, such as FedEx and UPS, at Incheon Airport, actively attracting global shipping centres of logistics companies in the free trade zone of nearly 600,000 square metre to secure cargo volume and planning to have dedicated terminals for fresh cargo such as semiconductors and pharmaceuticals.”

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