Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services has signed an agreement with lessor GECAS to take the first two Boeing 737-800SF freighters to be converted by Miami, Florida-based Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI).

First delivery is expected in June 2018, with the second to follow in January 2019. Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services is a division of the Ethiopian Airlines Group.

“The aircraft will be a great complement to our existing fleet of 777 and 757 freighters,” Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said.

The AEI-converted cargo aircraft accommodates 11 full-height containers plus one AEP/AEH, a main deck payload of up to 52,000 lb. (23,587 kg) and uses AEI’s hydraulically operated cargo door.

“In line with our Vision 2025 Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics strategic roadmap, we are expanding our cargo fleet and network to support trade within Africa and with the rest of the world by facilitating the export of perishables and the import of high-value goods into the continent,” Gebremariam said.

“We have been working with AEI on this program since 2015 and look forward to delivering the first AEI converted 737-800SF to Ethiopian Airlines,” GECAS SVP & manager-cargo aircraft group Richard Greener said. “The airline is joining a growing number of combination carriers planning to operate this aircraft either for replacement of aging freighters or for growth.”

Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics operates a network of more than 90 destinations on both freighter and belly hold services.  It is also the largest network cargo operator in Africa. It has a fleet of six Boeing 777 and two 757 freighters and ordered four more 777Fs at the November 2017 Dubai Air Show.  Ethiopian’s cargo terminal in Addis Ababa has an annual capacity of one million tons.