The valuable equine cargo arriving at Shannon Airport this week Picture: Brian Arthur
SHANNON Airport is seeking to establish itself as a gateway to top equine breeding destinations, with the arrival of a batch of valuable cargo.
Six thoroughbred mares were delivered to a leading Irish stud in the south of the country this week, in what was also the first scheduled transportation of horses into Shannon with Turkish Airlines, which operates three weekly cargo services from Istanbul to Shannon and on to Chicago, Atlanta and New York.
The horses that arrived this week were the first in many years to arrive in Shannon on a regular scheduled cargo flight.
The delicate cargo arrived in the prime of health, having been looked after by expert handlers during the four hour flight.
The Turkish cargo service was launched last year and now runs three times weekly.
Patrick Edmond, MD of the International Aviation Services Centre and Shannon Group strategy director, said the airport intends to capitalise on the rich equine tradition in its catchment area.
“There is a huge tradition of breeding across this region, not least in counties like Limerick, Tipperary and Clare. Some of the finest studs in the world are here, and Shannon is the gateway to this area,” he said.
“The equine sector is huge business for Ireland. It not alone brings in some of the world’s top horses but also some of the world’s top business people. Shannon’s catchment includes a number of the world’s leading studs and our staff has a proud history of handling these precious thoroughbreds.
“We hope to increase this business in future and the recent Turkish Cargo flight with these thoroughbred animals was an opportunity again to show what we can do. Horses are often transported through Shannon on special charter flights, but this scheduled flight opens up an attractive and cost-effective new option for owners.
“It demonstrates that this Turkish Cargo service is a huge boost not only for exporters but also, based on the arrival of these horses, for highly valuable imports as well.”
The Shannon Group, he added, has identified a major opportunity for the development of an air-freight hub at the airport, with large volumes of Irish air cargo exports currently being trucked to UK airports due to a lack of suitable direct flights from Ireland.
The airport had previously confirmed that plans to implement a €20m international cargo hub had been axed.
The plan, signed off by the Dublin Airport Authority in 2012 with Lynx to establish the hub, will not go ahead, company secretary Mary Considine confirmed late last year.
The plan had roots in 2009, when the DAA began exploring its potential. It was later mooted in several quarters that Shannon could become a cargo hub if commercial flight numbers continued to fall. However, in recent years – and particularly since gaining independence in 2013 – the airport has rebounded strongly.
Ms Considine, in a letter to Clare County Council in December, said the Lynx project was “conceived prior to the economic downturn and the business plan was materially affected by the subsequent downturn in economic activity”.
”Ultimately, it was not possible to identify a path forward with Lynx which satisfied both commercial requirements and the parties disengaged amicably,” she wrote.
However, Ms Considine said Shannon had continued to “actively pursue opportunities to develop its freight business”.