Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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When Lobsters Fly

Boxes of lobsters ready to ride the skies. For many visitors to Atlantic Canada, the idea of boxing up a lobster or two at the airport for a little plane ride home can be an integral and charming part of the iconic Atlantic experience.

But flying over 40 tonnes of it across the Atlantic ocean each and every week — to be served up on beautiful platters in exotic destinations from Europe to Asia — represents a much bigger challenge.

And it’s a challenge Nova Scotia business partners Doug McRae and Steve Christiensen are taking up successfully.

Today, their dream of flying lobsters and other maritime fare to markets around the world has become reality thanks to their company Gateway Facilities — one of the largest refrigerated air freight warehouse facilities and cargo businesses in North America.

“When you’re dealing with a product like seafood, getting it to market fresh is your main priority,” explains Doug from their base of operations at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. “And that’s where we first saw opportunities for refrigerated air cargo — shipping by air is fastest, which gives our local seafood exporters better access to potential foreign markets.”

With more than 650 square metres of refrigerated warehouse space and an apron that allows large cargo planes to taxi right up to the building to move freight, Gateway Facilities now offers refrigeration and loading capacity that exceeds major centres like New York and Boston.

In fact, the ability to move cargo from refrigerated storage space to the cargo door in under two minutes is a significant improvement over trucking cargo to planes from smaller, off-site storage areas — and a significant competitive edge in the North American shipping industry.

“We believe the quality of seafood products today — including lobster and oysters — are improving because of faster, better transportation options,” says Doug, “and that’s a source of pride for us because it’s helping exporters get seafood products on tables far from home.”

Meanwhile, Gateway Facilities continues to seize on opportunities for growth.

Thanks to some help from ACOA’s Business Development Fund, the company is busy adding new equipment to their facilities and expanding their employee base.

“We’ve never accessed government funding before and the experience with ACOA has been a good one because they are as enthusiastic about exporting as we are,” smiles Doug.

With so many lobsters now riding the skies, it seems only the sky is the limit for this cargo company that could.

Published in February 2011.