Chek Lap Kok airport's dominant freight handler will this year expand SuperTerminal One's handling stations and roll out a portfolio of technology-based products to enhance the multimodal flow of cargo from key import markets to the mainland. Hongkong Air Cargo Terminal Ltd (Hactl) will boost SuperTerminal One's truck docks and work stations by 30 per cent this year, to about 300, and on Monday will begin mandatory use of its electronic reception checklist (ERCL) for all pre-packed goods. Bulk goods reception will go online before the end of the year. The news comes as provisional figures for this month indicate strong growth in cargo. Overall, throughput at Hactl looks set to eclipse 10 per cent year-on-year monthly growth. The present 9 per cent levels are expected to be boosted by an Easter rush. This month imports are up 3 per cent, indicating increased demand on the mainland. Local demand remains weak. The month's exports are up 11 per cent to 12 per cent year on year, fuelled in part by a rebound in intra-Asia trades. From September, Hactl's wholly owned subsidiary, HongKong Air Cargo Industry Services (Hacis), will extend its online cargo security monitoring service, to bonded cargo moving to South China and beyond through its SuperLink Direct service. An electronic seal secures the load in outbound trucks and is monitored by a global satellite positioning system which allows Hacis to track and trace, and alerts it instantly when cargo loads are breached. SuperLink Direct, launched 18 months ago, offers a bonded trucking service for air cargo destined for the Pearl River Delta. The product allows incoming shipments to bypass customs procedures until they reach one of three scheduled mainland destinations - Guangzhou's Baiyun airport, a bonded warehouse in Dongguang and Huantian airport in Shenzhen, from where it can meet onward domestic flight connections to 18 destinations. From about the middle of next month Hacis will add Huangpu to its network. Hactl's switch to the ERCL service has been promoted for the past few months in co-operation with the Hongkong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics. Together, the association's members move more than 90 per cent of SAR cargoes. Hactl marketing director Summit Chan said: 'The traditional method is for the forwarders to write out the checklist after they arrive at the facility. What we will be asking them to do is type the ERCL on our hactl.com Web site before arriving. It will shorten some of the delivery cycle time for the cargo agent by giving us about 90 more minutes to mobilise our resources before their arrival.' Hactl is also keen on seeing more agents use its online collection scheduling to further optimise its allocation of resources. 'There are obviously times which are more convenient for the cargo agents, so there will always be service rushes. But it is important for all parties that we communicate so we can be prepared for those,' Mr Chan said. There has been much hand-wringing about the exodus of sea and air cargo to facilities across the border. Industry experts said there were historical precedents which indicated transport infrastructure would eventually follow the cargo. Facilities catering to transshipment were all eventually bypassed, they said, putting the emphasis on trade transport hubs such as Hong Kong to gradually evolve into service hubs to compensate. It is this school of thought which believes the exodus of low-value cargo, mainly moving by sea, is inevitable because those products have low profit margins, making lower transport costs, such as those available on the mainland, more of a priority. However, Hong Kong can remain the transport hub for high-value freight, such as express and general air cargo, for which transport costs are not such a big factor. 'Individually, the initiatives we are undertaking at Hacis and Hactl this year are not a huge story,' Mr Chan said. 'But if you add 100 of these you keep Hong Kong at the forefront of the industry because you maintain its competitive advantage by adding value to the supply chain.' Hactl will also revamp its Web site in June. It will include a link to HEx, a new e-logistics platform for intermodal services. 'It will be a dedicated Hacis product that will tie together intermodal documentation elements so the agent doesn't become overwhelmed by the myriad of manual processes. It is a platform which will allow the freight forwarders to interact with us and manage their intermodal cargo flows,' Mr Chan said.