If Pactl is any indication, May will be a great month

Pactl’s Shanghai Pudong terminal

Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal Co Ltd (Pactl, the biggest handler at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport) reported a 13.0% y-o-y increase in its May cargo handle to 154,000 tonnes, its best monthly result this year.

Pactl started the year strongly, with a 12.3% y-o-y increase for the combined January/February period, and stayed in double digits with an 11.4% in March tonnage. April saw a bit of a fall-off, with growth dropping to 9.6% over April 2015. This was part of a worldwide trend of slowing (though still strong) growth in April, and we wondered if it was the beginning of a return to slower growth for the rest of the year.

But if Pactl and the few other big carriers and airports that have so far reported provide a reliable guide, then it looks like demand for air freight is still growing at a pace we have not seen for many years.

Looking ahead, expansion for the Pudong-based handler is likely in the cards. Despite Pactl’s designation as a Shanghai-based operation, the venture is no longer limiting itself to the confines of Shanghai. At this year’s Cargo Facts Asia Symposium, Christian Haug, VP, Pactl told delegates the terminal had already established its second jv outside of Shanghai, at Nantong Xingdong Airport (NTG), and was considering similar opportunities at other airports in China, and elsewhere.

For Pactl, Nantong represents a major shift in scale from its Pudong operation. At present, no non-express freighters operate out of the airport, and last year Nantong’s cargo handle was less than 30,000 tonnes (Pactl Shanghai’s monthly handle is more than five-fold). Opportunities for e-commerce express parcels, and perishables at Nantong, however, are significant. SF Express already serves three cities from Nantong, and it was recently joined by its contracted carrier, Longhao Airlines.

Apart from Nantong, no other concrete plans have been identified. However, we note that much of the handler’s growth in Pudong has been a result of surging perishables imports moving through its CEIV Pharma-certified cool chain facilities. Many airports in China’s interior lack proper cool chain infrastructure, and thus could potentially court handlers like Pactl to develop their capacity to handle perishables.

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