For a year that started off in the red, 2016 ended on a high-note for Hong Kong International Airport, its handlers, and major carriers operating at the airport. Both Hactl and Cathay Pacific Airways reported strong y-o-y gains in December, and for the full year 2016. Of course, when examining full-year data from 2016, it is important to recall the west coast port disruptions that occurred in early 2015 and led to a one-off surge in airfreight demand during Q1 2015. Accounting for this influence, underlying growth for 2016 is likely 1% higher than reported.
Returning to the situation in Hong Kong, HKIA, the world’s busiest cargo airport in terms of tonnage handled, reported its December handle up 11.3% y -o-y to 435,000 tonnes. For the full year 2016, tonnage was up 3.2% over 2015, to 4.52 million tonnes. Strong exports and an increase in the number of flight movements were said to have boosted cargo transshipments which drove HKIA into positive territory during peak season.
Hong Kong-headquartered Cathay Pacific Airways’ cargo volume nearly mirrored that of the airport with a 9.9% gain in December to 174,000 tonnes. For the full year, Cathay’s cargo volume was up 3.1% to 1.85 million tonnes. Cathay’s cargo traffic for the year 2016 meanwhile, was nearly flat (up 0.8%) at 10.68 million RTKs. In recent months, cargo volumes have grown faster than the carrier’s cargo traffic, a trend that is indicative of a rapidly growing regional airfreight market paired with more modest trans-Pacific and Asia-Europe growth.
Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd (Hactl, one of the two biggest handlers at HKIA) also fared well in late 2016, and, after a slow start, reported full-year tonnage up 1.7% over 2015, to 1,653,938 tonnes, even against the backdrop of declining imports. A record number of cargo flights and strong transshipment performance during peak season drove Hactl’s growth in 2016.
On a lighter note, peak season busyness did not prevent Hactl from having a little fun, and hosting its annual forklift and pallet building competition. Ten teams from global airlines took part in two separate events: a forklift driving competition which required drivers to navigate a challenging course while carrying cargo. And a second pallet building event during which teams had one hour to build as many IATA-compliant pallets as possible. Japan-based airlines dominated this year’s competition. Japan Airlines won first in both events while Nippon Cargo Airlines came in second.
Now for a few photos of the competition:
Those interested in learning more about the changing air freight landscape in Asia should join us at Cargo Facts Asia in Shanghai, 25 – 26 April, where a session will be devoted to the topic. To register, or for more information, go to CargoFactsAsia.com.