Shanghai joins the 4-million-tonne club

Inside the Pactl cargo terminal at Shanghai Pudong International

Until now, only two cities in the world – Hong Kong and Memphis – could boast that their airports handled more than 4 million tonnes of air cargo per year. But, according to the Shanghai Airport Authority, as of today, 15 December, Shanghai joined the 4-million-tonne club.

Unlike Hong Kong and Memphis, which only have one airport, Shanghai’s air freight moves through two: Pudong International (PVG) and Hongqiao International (SHA). The growth of their combined handles is impressive: From 1 million tonnes in 2002 it grew to 2 million tonnes in 2005, 3 million tonnes in 2010, and 4 million tonnes this year. That is a compound annual growth rate of just over 10%, close to double the worldwide rate of growth in air cargo demand for the period.

Of course, air is not the only way goods move through Shanghai. By volume, 99% moves by sea, but the 1% of the tonnage that moves by air accounts for 34% of the total value of import and export traffic.

Most of Shanghai’s air cargo moves through PVG, which is the region’s main international hub. SHA has some regional connections (Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau), but serves primarily as a hub for domestic China traffic.

The biggest individual handler at Shanghai’s airports is Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal Co Ltd (Pactl), which this week reported its November handle up 10.9% y-o-y to 176,000 tonnes. This is a fall-off from the 14% and 15% year-over-year growth Pactl was reporting earlier this year, but while the rate of demand growth may be falling, demand itself is booming – we believe Pactl’s November cargo handle was an all-time record for the company, besting the previous record of 169,000 tonnes set the month before. For the year through November, Pactl’s handle was up 12.5% to 1.70 million tonnes.

Interested in what’s happening in the air freight scene in Shanghai? Then come to that city next spring and join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2018. The event will be held 23-25 April 2018 at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong. For more information, or to register, visit

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