July 18, 2016 9:15 AM, EDT

Port of Portland Lands New Air Cargo Carrier

Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg News

A new air cargo carrier announced it would start twice-weekly service to Portland, offering a new route for Oregon goods headed for Asia.

Cathay Pacific Airways plans to stop in Portland twice a week as part of a route that begins and ends at the company's hub in Hong Kong, also stopping along the way in Los Angeles.

The port had been recruiting a carrier for two years, it said. The port and state business development officials offered Cathay Pacific a $1.3 million incentive package over the first three years of service.

Cathay Pacific is expected to carry semi-finished footwear and apparel, electronics and perishables such as blueberries, cherries, Dungeness crab and oysters from Portland to its destinations in Asia using wide-body Boeing 747-8F aircraft.

Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Intel are expected to be major customers.

"You'e got an extraordinary ecosystem here," said Phillipe Lacamp, Cathay Pacific's senior vice president for the Americas. "We've been carrying from this region out of our other hubs. It really comes down to the likes of Nike in particular and Columbia Sportswear."

Those major shippers will establish a baseline of cargo to be shipped out of Portland, Lacamp said, but the regular service will give smaller businesses an opportunity to ship air cargo out of Portland as well.

Lacamp said the company would ideally carry 40 to 60 tons of cargo out of Portland each flight with hopes of increasing capacity later.

The service replaces that lost in 2013, when Asiana Airlines stopped carrying cargo from Portland to Seoul.

"This service will give us that direct link to Asia that we've lacked for the last several years," said Keith Leavitt, the port's chief commercial officer.

It doesn't replace the shipping service lost by the virtual shutdown of the Port of Portland's marine container terminal. Air cargo is more expensive and generally reserved for high-value, time-sensitive and perishable goods.

The service will begin on Nov. 3 if approved by regulators.

Carriers moved 228,428 tons of cargo through Portland International Airport last year. The courier service FedEx was responsible for nearly half of that cargo.

East Asia markets account for just over half of Oregon's air exports, the Port said. Currently the air exports to those destinations, almost entirely shipped through other airports, are valued at $4.3 billion.