Freight Forwarding Companies

By the late 1950s, freight transport had become an important source of revenue for both the airport and local airlines alike. In fact, Channel Air Bridge alone had increased its freight tonnage in 1954-55 from just 38 tons to more than 4,000 tons during the 1958-59 period, with an additional 5,300 tons of cattle and livestock being moved between 1956 & 1958. Indeed, by the period 1963-64, Southend Airport had reached the very pinnacle of its existence and was by this time, the third busiest airport in the country while where freight movements were concerned, only London Airport (Heathrow) could ultimately prevent SEN from taking the number one spot.

Freight Statistics for Southend Airport – 1951 to 1975

1951 – c.100 tonnes

1952 – c.200 tonnes

1953 – c.250 tonnes

1954 –  1,795 tonnes

1955 –  8,615 tonnes

1956 – 11,565 tonnes

1957 – 16,039 tonnes

1958 – 20,350 tonnes

1959 – 27,225 tonnes

1960 – 40,489 tonnes

1961 – 48,575 tonnes

1962 – 59,881 tonnes

1963 – 61,337 tonnes

1964 – 64,540 tonnes

1965 – 60,572 tonnes

1966 – 62, 753 tonnes

1967 – 50,010 tonnes

1968 – 46,259 tonnes

1969 – 39,966 tonnes

1970 – 39,519 tonnes

1971 – 35,461 tonnes

1972 – 29,852 tonnes

1973 – 25,144 tonnes

1974 – 20,822 tonnes

1975 – 15,753 tonnes

It goes without saying that with all this cargo being moved to and fro, Southend needed a good number of companies to help facilitate these movements. Lep Transport was probably the largest and longest serving of these companies and as such, you will find a separate entry for this concern in the ‘Other SEN Ops’ menu. Otherwise, below you will find a list of smaller, yet equally important SEN based freight agencies and forwarding companies that did their part in helping to ensure the smooth transition of cargo from airside to landside destinations and visa versa. Please note that many of the dates below are approximate being as specific details are now extremely difficult to come by.

Allport Ltd

Starting out in 1963, Allport Ltd quickly opened an office at SEN from where it specialised in packing, shipping, customs clearances and charter arrangements for larger cargo shipments. The main remit of this company was to fill the void between those companies which offered specialised, bespoke services and the much larger companies who because of the vast amounts of cargo they transported, often lacked that personal touch. To ensure the rapid movement of their goods, Allport had secured associate agreements with numerous air freight and road haulage companies in Belgium, France, Holland and Switzerland. This company was still resident at SEN during the late 1970s, although the exact date of their departure from the airport is not known.

Armfield Transport Agency Ltd

It would seem that this international shipping and forwarding wing of the Armfield Group of Companies opened an office SEN some time after 1963 from where it would offer road and air services to and from the UK, Europe and Scandinavia. The company was still present at Southend by the turn of the decade, although when it actually ceased operations at the airport is unknown.

Clarkair International

A relative latecomer to SEN was Clarkair International (Services) Ltd, a London based company that was founded in April 1967. Within a year, an office had been set up at Southend from where it would offer cargo handling services which included freight collection and delivery. This business was also able to offer aircraft chartering and aircraft parts and spares. Its longevity at SEN is unknown, although it is likely that the office had been closed down by the beginning of the 1980s.

Giltspur Air Freight/Channelflow

Little is known about the details of this company’s commercial existence apart from the fact that it was part of parent concern – Giltspur Shipping Ltd. What is known is that this air freight agency was operational at SEN from the 1960s until around the beginning of the ’80s and for a part of its life, it operated from north side hangar 2. This company was of notable interest being as in the 1970s, it took over the Malmö – Southend ‘Swedish Flyer’ service, after which it began operating through its Channelflow division. The flights themselves were weekly with extra flights being put on as and when required, although these were eventually expanded to twice weekly. Eventually, Southend based BAF would take over the contract, although rather than flying the goods to Sweden, they were flown to Ostend where they were then collected by truck and driven to Malmö.

Scanair Aviation Services

Unlike many of the other companies on this page, Scanair operated beyond its remit as an international freight forwarder and consolidator and also offered a range of other services such the arranging of air taxi, charter services and aircraft handling while also acting as an agent for numerous tour and travel companies. The dates or length of time that this company spent at the airport is unknown, but it likely operated at SEN around the 1970s era.

Watson & Scull

Watson & Scull Ltd began operations at SEN during 1957. While the company head office would remain in London, a branch was opened at Southend to primarily deal with the increasing number of fresh cut flowers that were being brought in from the Continent. Operations were then later expanded to include the handling of other perishable, fragile and easily damaged goods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, textiles and printed materials. However by 1959, freight handling had expanded dramatically at Southend and thus in the same year this company started Watson & Scull (Air Services) Ltd as a separate concern. This branch of the business would then go on to offer the standard fare of cargo services such as international shipping, customs clearance, transport, warehousing, packaging and insurance services. It is believed that this company operated at SEN for around 15 years before pulling out sometime during the early to mid 1970s. This company finally went out of business in February 1987.

World Transport Agency

This Felixstowe based international transport agency/consolidator began life in 1913 and has since then built up nationwide coverage while priding itself on offering bespoke, logistical solutions to each of its customers. This company became operational at SEN from the late 1950s onwards as the freight forwarding agent for W.R. Wilson & Co below, while some of the airlines including Transair and TSA used this company as their handling agent. The date of their airport office closure at SEN is however unknown.

W.R.Williams & Co

This Swedish transport company was another international shipping and air freight agency that had a number of offices throughout much of the UK. Williams & Co began operating the ‘Swedish Flyer’ route between Malmö and Southend in 1958 or possibly slightly earlier and primarily used either Transair or TSA to haul goods in, although on occasion, other carriers would be used such as Fred Olsen & Co. The aircraft of choice was usually the C-46 Commando which could bring in up to 6,200kg of loose, unpalletised goods. It would appear that this company continued to operate at SEN until the early 1970s. However by the summer of 1972, this company had gone out of business.

With many thanks to Graham Jennings for providing extra information for this page.


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