Europort Vatry - Europe's first all-cargo multi-modal centre supported by air, road and rail - is wooing Asian shippers to use its facilities when it opens next year. The project's special adviser Jean-Didier Blanchet said feedback indicated Asian freight forwarders were greatly interested in the centre as a gateway to Europe. Europort Vatry has joined the Air Freight Asia '98 exhibition in Hong Kong to create an awareness of its presence in the SAR's freight-forwarding community. Later, it also would go to the mainland to market its services, Mr Blanchet said. 'We are offering prices which are 40 per cent lower than any other airport in Europe,' he said. The project, in the Champagne region, 150 km east of Paris, is being established by local French authorities at a cost of US$200 million. It is expected to provide an average turnaround time of 12 hours per freighter, which compares with about 36 hours at other major European centres. Europort Vatry expects 40 per cent of its traffic to come from Asia, 40 per cent from the United States and the rest from Africa and South America. It expects to capture about 5 per cent of the European market, representing about 250,000 tonnes. Mr Blanchet, formerly president of Air France, said the project's main advantage was its location at the interchange of the highway between Paris and Frankfurt, and the highway between the Channel Tunnel - linking Britain and France - and Switzerland. Another advantage was that the site was flat, making it easy to build an airport. Because it is away from urban areas, authorities considered it a good project free from environmental concerns, he said. Initial clearing at the site started in December and work on the 3,860-metre runway is to start next month. The project includes a parking area for aircraft, a freight terminal, supply and security zones, line maintenance hangers and a public terminal for airlines, a dedicated zone for express freight, a private terminal area and a transit zone. It will have a road transport centre and logistics complex, a rail-freight terminal and logistics complex, and warehouse facilities supported by offices, hotels, corporate housing, retail and service outlets. Europort Vatry's airport is due to begin operation late next year or early 2000. Mr Blanchet said the operation expected to break even in the first three years, handling about 60,000 tonnes annually. The project already has three clients - an Air Liquide unit which is to establish its European distribution centre involving road operations initially, retail company Cora, and AGF subsidiary Garonor, an international insurance company which will use the air component of the complex.