Cainiao Network, the logistics arm of Alibaba Group, has opened a sorting and cargo facility at its Liege Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) hub located at Liege Airport in Belgium.
The smart logistics hub is a key part of the agreement made in 2018 between Alibaba Group and the Belgian government to join the global eWTP initiative, which aims to lower barriers to global trade for small and medium-size businesses via e-commerce.
The construction of this first warehouse, wholly designed by Belgian architects, started in late 2019 and commenced operations earlier this year after a series of successful trials.
In recent months, Cainiao, together with local partners, has recruited for more than 200 jobs at the warehouse. These are aimed at local residents ranging from management to front-line logistics handlers. The project is expected to create 900 direct jobs when it reaches full scale, including construction of additional warehouse facilities in the future.
The 30,000m2 warehouse is divided into two parts: a 12,000m2 air cargo station for the rapid transit of goods for both export and import between the airside and the landside of the airport; and an 18,000m2 parcel sorting center that organizes parcels according to their destinations across Europe. A four-story office building is adjacent to the warehouse.
The facility is equipped with Cainiao’s latest logistics digital technologies such as its handheld LEMO personal digital assistant (PDA) to digitize the flow of goods. The air cargo station is equipped with an automated material handling system that avoids heavy lifting work. It will also be equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) detectors so cargo can be identified automatically when going into the warehouse, to further digitize the flow of goods.
The sorting center, located at the landside of the warehouse, is equipped with two automatic sorting machines. It is Cainiao’s regional flagship sorting center for Europe, and forms a network with the national sorting centers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Over the past few years, along with the construction of the eWTP Liege Hub, Cainiao has been strengthening its logistics infrastructure to provide a more efficient and seamless cross-border logistics experience across Europe. It also, working closely with Euopean logistics firms, developed an intra-Europe trucking network that covers more than 30 countries, and has been installing a network of parcel lockers in Spain and France to improve customer experience and improve last-mile delivery efficiency.
Jean-Luc Crucke, Walloon minister for Budget, Finance, Airports and Sports Infrastructure, said, “The launch of the Cainiao Liege eWTP hub is a perfect example of the expertise developed by Walloon airports and their worldwide reputation in logistics. Building on these strengths, it is now more important than ever to take into account the environmental challenges of our airports, and to strike a balance between airport development and the well-being of the population. We wish Cainiao every success, and look forward to the economic and business opportunities for the region created by the development of the eWTP Liege Hub.”
Frédéric Jacquet, CEO of Liege Airport, added, “The arrival of the Cainiao eWTP Liege Hub underlines the importance of Liege Airport as a vital link in international trade and a key platform for e-commerce. Alongside general cargo and express, e-commerce represents a diversification opportunity for the airport but also the promise of job development which is one of the reasons that our company exists. Cainiao is an ambitious and innovative partner, a partner who pushes us to reinvent ourselves and to be better. Like other important partners of Liege Airport, Cainiao will help us grow in a win-win relationship which finds its full meaning in the development projects that are ours.”
Wan Lin, CEO of Cainiao Network, said, “We are grateful to fully become a part in this community of logistics players surrounding Liege Airport, a leading cargo airport in Europe. Together with our European partners, we will build the future of smart logistics, of inclusive global trade and contribute to the future of a community with immense potential here in Belgium, starting with this eWTP Hub.”