Cainiao Networks opens smart logistics hub at Liège Airport

Cainiao Networks, the logistics arm of Alibaba Group, opened its largest smart logistics hub in Europe last week in a new boost to the development of cross-border e-commerce. The smart facility, dubbed eHub, is located in Liège Airport. Its official kickoff marked the realization of an agreement in 2018 between Alibaba and the Belgian government under the electronic World Trade Platform initiative, which aims to lower barriers to global trade for small businesses via e-commerce. “This e-hub in Liège has not only has equipment and digital management systems from China, but also high-quality automated machines and experienced European operators,” said Zhang Chi, Chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Belgium, Xinhua reported. “The integration of the best resources of our two parties, making it possible to optimize the logistical efficiency of this hub in Liège, will strengthen Sino-Belgian cooperation as part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” Zhang said.

The 30,000-square-meter warehouse is divided into two parts; an air freight area of 12,000 square meters for the rapid transit of goods for export and import between the aerial part and the land part of the airport, and an 18,000 sq m sorting center, which groups together parcels according to their destinations in Europe. The facility is also equipped with lightweight handheld terminals and a digital Customs clearance system to streamline terminal operations. “Cainiao is an ambitious and innovative partner, which pushes us to reinvent ourselves and to be better,” said Frédéric Jacquet, Chief Executive Officer of Liège Airport. “Like other important partners of Liège Airport, Cainiao will help us grow in a win-win relationship, which finds its full meaning in the development projects that are ours.”

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said that in the first seven months, total imports and exports to and from the European Union hit CNY2.96 trillion, surging 26.7% year-on-year. Imports reached CNY1.17 trillion, a growing percentage of which was contributed by cross-border e-commerce. Currently, Cainiao handles nearly 5 million cross-border parcels on a daily basis, with six core logistics hubs worldwide with bonded warehouses. Cainiao said it will organize 18 cargo flights and 60 trucks per week through the Liège eHub. During the opening ceremony of the fourth China International Import Expo (CIIE), President Xi Jinping said via a video link that the country will optimize the catalog of retail imports via cross-border e-commerce and shore up the capacity of cross-border logistics.

Cainiao will expand cross-border e-commerce, adding new routes to Japan and South Korea, and improving Customs clearance procedures, said Zhao Jian, General Manager of Cainiao’s global supply chain. “It’s an increasingly common practice that foreign brands use cross-border e-commerce as a test run for formal and large-scale new product launches in China,” Zhao said. The seller does not have to register as a legal entity, and the required procedures are simpler and shorter. Zhao said cosmetics, maternal and baby-related products as well as healthcare and nutrition are the most popular areas of cross-border e-commerce. He also expects pet food to be an increasingly hot item. “People shopping on cross-border e-commerce channels are not just middle-income earners living in first-tier cities, but also come from Generation Z, who aspire for novelty and individuality and look for niche overseas products that are cost-effective. Their common desire is a highly efficient and smooth cross-border logistics experience,” Zhao said, as reported by the China Daily.