APM Terminals now open for airplanes

A partnership between the local community and the terminal helped persuade Airbus to bring its new airplane factory to Mobile, Alabama, as its first-ever manufacturing facility in the United States.

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European aircraft giant, Airbus, opened its first U.S.-based manufacturing site in Mobile, Alabama in September, just 5 km from APM Terminals Mobile.

European aircraft giant, Airbus, opened its first U.S.-based manufacturing site in Mobile, Alabama in September just 5 km from APM Terminals Mobile.

Airbus expects the USD 600 million Brookley ­Aeroplex site to be producing one Airbus passenger jet nearly every week by 2018 and APM Terminals will play a key role in achieving that. The new factory is bringing revenue and jobs to the region, while also showing the range of business possibilities APM Terminals has beyond its core of container handling.

“This is a huge win for Mobile and APM Terminals. It is the result of two years of hard work on the part of the city and county of Mobile, the Alabama State Port Authority, and APM Terminals. All to show Airbus the value of the supply chain package they could get here, i.e. an excellent logistics infrastructure, highly skilled labour and the support of the entire local shipping community,” says Brian Harold, Head of APM Terminals Mobile.

No ordinary cargo or operation

APM Terminals has invested USD 250 million in the Mobile, Alabama terminal both throughout construction of the facility and since its opening in 2008. It has been used to modernise equipment and expand the yard to accommodate the increased business from shipping lines serving Alabama’s growing industrial base, as well as, from larger vessels calling US Gulf ports, currently and following the opening of the expanded Panama Canal.

To handle Airbus’ airplanes the terminal has made several accommodations and requires continued capital investments. The giant pre-assembled sections of the A320 Family passenger plane – the wings, fuselage and tail fins – began arriving at the terminal in September inside break-bulk vessels.

To handle the delicate unloading of these heavy, expensive airplane sections, APM Terminals Mobile has fitted its post-Panamax cranes with head blocks capable of rotating 360 degrees. This allows the crane to lift and rotate longer objects – like the 31-metre long A320 fuselage – and carry them through the legs of the crane and on to a waiting truck. The gates of the terminal have also been rearranged, and widened, to accommodate the turning radius of the trucks carrying the pieces.
In addition, a dedicated 4,000-Square Metre storage area has been built for the plane parts with anchor points to fix them to the ground and avoid ­movement in the high winds that often come off the Gulf.

Pre-assembled sections

Airbus splits its aircraft manufacturing into production sites in several locations in Europe and final assembly in Europe, China and now the United States. The new facility in Mobile, Alabama will receive pre-assembled sections of the A320 Family passenger jets, primary for sale in North America.

“The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility is an important step forward in Airbus’ strategy, and has strengthening our position as a leader and competitor in all of our key markets,” Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier said in a September press statement.

“It enables us to grow our already significant presence in America – the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world – and to be closer to our U.S. customers and key supplier partners.”

Brian Harold says the experience has proved to him that the opportunities for more non-traditional business like this are quite good.

“We’re continuing to work with the state and local government to get more business like this,” he says. “There are plenty of opportunities, not just for break-bulk and project cargo, but also in connection with the cargo in some of the containers such as machinery, palletised cargo and other standard packaged freight. We can handle and deliver such cargo at the terminal and save these customers money by removing a warehouse from their supply chain.”