HACTL in the midst of record peak, even as growth rates are slow

All hands are on deck this month at Hactl. In this photo, an NCA Cargo team competes in Hactl’s 2016 pallet building competition.

Despite slowing year-over-year growth rates in monthly annual comparisons, demand for air freight is still extremely strong. Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl) reported it had broken three records during the first week of November, indicating the industry’s position in the middle of a great peak season.

For the first time ever, on 5 November, Hactl handled 102 freighters in a single day, a figure that most of the world’s airports do not even see in an entire month. Hactl’s previous record of 101 freighters was set on 23 November 2016, suggesting that if history repeats itself, mid-to-late November could be even stronger.

With the number of freighters moving through Hong Kong during the first week of November, it’s no wonder then, that Hactl bested its weekly handling records for both export, and its overall total for the week, with 31,280 tonnes and 42,471 tonnes of cargo handled in each segment.

Commenting on the records, Hactl Chief Executive Mark Whitehead said, “2016 was a year of records for Hactl, largely fueled by the boom in Q4 resulting from the collapse of Hanjin. We have had no such extraordinary event to boost volumes in 2017, yet our 100 client carriers are all performing strongly and helping us to set new records. Our work on developing e-commerce export traffic via Hong Kong is clearly playing a part in the overall picture, and we are delighted to be able to contribute to our airline customers’ continuing success.”

Despite robust demand for air cargo, the rate of demand growth is slowing. Looking back at 2016, air freight demand growth was negative at the beginning of the year, turning positive in April, with low single-digit year-over-year gains through August. But in September, growth began to accelerate, up 6.1% in that month, and then 8.2%, 6.8%, and 9.8% in October, November, and December, respectively. With these tougher comparisons, the gains in current and future months will inevitably be lower.

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