Hong Kong airport sees mini-boom in cargo

Extra 35 flights may mean 3,500 tonnes of freight to be moved as mainland records surge in trade in run-up to year-end

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 1:40am

Cargo volumes through Hong Kong International Airport are set to stage a mini-boom in the closing weeks of the year, buoyed by extra pre-Christmas freighter flights.

Mark Whitehead, the managing director of Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd (Hactl), the largest cargo handler at Chek Lap Kok, said the facility would see a "boomlet" in airfreight tonnage.

Charter and scheduled airlines have booked space for an additional 35 freighter flights from early this month to the middle of next month.

All will carry export cargo to a number of destinations including Tokyo, Moscow and cities in central Asia.

Most of these flights will use Boeing 747s that can carry about 100 tonnes of freight. This suggests Hactl could handle more than 3,500 tonnes of extra freight by the time the flights end on December 11.

By comparison, Hactl handled an average of 4,100 tonnes of export cargo per day in September, while total volume, comprising exports, imports and transshipments, was 237,761 tonnes for the month, the highest monthly total since March.

Japan's Nippon Cargo Airlines plans to operate the most flights, with 16 additional departures to Tokyo's Narita airport between November 1 and 30. Silk Way Airlines, which operates from Baku, Azerbaijan, will make 10 extra flights. There are also extra flights by Qatar Airways, Turkey's ACT Airlines and Russian carriers Polet Airlines and Air Bridge Cargo.

The additional tonnage comes as Hactl was already anticipating better-than-expected growth in cargo volumes after total throughput grew 0.7 per cent year on year to more than two million tonnes in the first nine months of the year. The figures were supported by resilient export volumes from the mainland and better import growth into the country.

Overall, cargo volume at Hong Kong International Airport rose 0.9 per cent to 3.3 million tonnes in the first 10 months of this year, Airport Authority figures show.

Chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung, said: "Preliminary numbers on cargo throughput in November also suggest a welcome and strong rebound in the year-end peak months. We are cautiously optimistic about cargo performance for 2012 given the arrival of the holiday season."

But while Hactl and the authority were optimistic about cargo volumes, there was little joy at Cathay Pacific Airways. Nick Rhodes, a director of Cathay Pacific Cargo, said the airline had seen a "better four to six weeks leading up to Thanksgiving", with year-on-year increases in volumes in the past two months.

But Rhodes added: "It looks like loads will soften markedly in December. Nobody is cracking open the champagne at Cathay Pacific this peak season."