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HKIA Crowned World’s Busiest Cargo Airport Again in 2023

HKIA Crowned World’s Busiest Cargo Airport Again in 2023

World’s Busiest Cargo Airport

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has been named once again the world’s busiest cargo airport for 2023 in terms of total volume, according to the latest data released by Airports Council International (ACI). The airport handled 4.3 million tonnes of cargo during the year. It is the 13th time since 2010 that HKIA is named the busiest cargo airport in the world.

Jack So, Chairman of Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), said, “We are proud to have claimed once again the top spot for air cargo throughput. This accomplishment demonstrates HKIA’s resilience, unparalleled efficiency and world-class cargo services. Air cargo is a key driver of the growth of Hong Kong’s logistics industry and overall economic development. AAHK shall continue to work tirelessly with our air cargo community to further strengthen HKIA’s competitiveness as a global cargo hub.”

To ensure adequate capacity to meet long-term demand, HKIA is expanding into a Three-runway System (3RS), with which the airport will be able to handle 10 million tonnes of cargo annually.  The 3RS is targeted to be completed by the end of this year, with all three runways operating.

To capture future growth opportunities, HKIA is focusing on the high-value and fast-growing segments. HKIA is the first airport in the world to attain the full suite of Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) certifications from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for the handling of high-value goods, including pharmaceuticals, perishables, live animals and lithium batteries.

In response to the rapid rise of e-commerce, an array of developments are progressing full steam at HKIA to capture the tremendous opportunities. In 2023, HKIA saw the completion of the Cainiao Smart Gateway, developed by Alibaba Group’s logistics arm, and the expansion of DHL’s Central Asia Hub, which increased its capacity by 50 percent. Meanwhile, United Parcel Service has announced their plan to establish a new hub facility at HKIA.

To enhance connectivity with the Greater Bay Area (GBA), HKIA has launched a novel cargo sea-air transshipment operation which enables security screening, palletisation, cargo acceptance, and other services to be completed upstream at the HKIA Dongguan Logistics Park before the cargo is shipped to HKIA by sea for air transshipment to worldwide destinations.

Conversely, a similar process is in place for international imports to the Mainland. The new model revolutionises the way HKIA supports transshipment, and will reinforce HKIA’s role as the most important international cargo gateway for the GBA.

Other Topics: Air Cargo Network, Air Express, Air Freight Services, Air Logistics, Airports, Asia Pacific Air Cargo, Asia Pacific Air Freight, Asia Pacific Air Logistics, Asia Pacific Shipments, Busiest Airport, Cainiao, Cargo Flights, E-Commerce Logistics, Express Delivery, Express Logistics, HKIA. AAHK, Hong Kong International Airport, International Air Shipments, International Express Delivery, Transpacific Air Cargo, Transpacific Air Freight

Air Cargo Demand Maintains Double-Digit Growth in February

Geneva –  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for February 2024 global air cargo markets showing continuing strong annual growth in demand.

  • Total demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), rose by 11.9% compared to February 2023 levels (12.4% for international operations). This is the third consecutive month of double-digit year-on-year demand growth.
  • Capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), increased by 13.4% compared to February 2023 (16.0% for international operations). This was largely related to the increase in international belly capacity accompanying growth in passenger markets (29.5% year-on-year increase), which far exceeded international capacity on freighters (3.2% year-on-year increase).

“February’s demand growth of 11.9% far outpaced the 0.9% expansion in cross-border trade. This strong start for 2024 could see demand surpass the exceptionally high levels of early 2022. It also shows air cargo’s strong resilience in the face of continuing political and economic uncertainties,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Several factors in the operating environment should be noted:

  • Global cross-border trade increased by 0.9% in January.
  • In February, the manufacturing output Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) climbed to 51.2, indicating expansion. The new export orders PMI also rose to 49.4, remaining slightly below the 50 threshold that would indicate growth.
  • February year-on-year inflation dropped to 2.8% in the EU while rising to 2.8% and 3.2% in Japan and the US respectively. After four months of deflation, China reported a 0.7% increase in inflation year-on-year—a positive development amid concerns over China’s economic slowdown.

Air cargo market in detail – February 2024

February 2024

(% year-on-year)             World share1     CTK        ACTK     CLF (%-pt)           CLF (level)

Total Market      100%     11.9%    13.4%    -0.6%     45.1%

Africa    2.0%      22.0%    28.2%    -2.3%     45.1%

Asia Pacific          33.3%    11.9%    23.1%    -4.3%     43.2%

Europe 21.4%    14.6%    13.2%    0.7%      58.4%

Latin America     2.8%      13.7%    8.9%      1.6%      37.6%

Middle East        13.5%    20.9%    16.2%    1.8%      46.3%

North America  26.9%    4.2%      1.9%      0.9%      39.6%

1% of industry CTKs in 2023

February Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific airlines saw 11.9% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February. This was a significant decrease compared to January’s 24.3% year-on-year growth, likely related to slowing activity after the Lunar New Year celebrations. Capacity increased by 23.1% year-on-year as belly capacity came online with recovery in the passenger business.

North American carriers saw 4.2% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February—the weakest among all regions. Demand on the North America–Europe trade lane grew by 5.2% year-on-year while Asia–North America grew by 3.9% year-on-year.  February capacity increased by 1.9% year-on-year.

European carriers saw 14.6% year-on-year demand growth for air cargo in February. Intra-European air cargo rose by 24.5% year-on-year—the strongest performance in almost three years. Europe – Middle East routes saw demand grow by 39.3% year-on-year, while Europe – North America expanded by 5.2% year-on-year.  February capacity increased 13.2% year-on-year.


Take-off for CMA CGM Air Cargo at Liege

Bali Relocation

New market entrant CMA CGM Air Cargo on March 13 operated its first flight.

The inaugural flight of the shipping group’s air cargo subsidiary took off from Liege Airport in Europe and headed across the Atlantic to Chicago O’Hare in the US utilising one of its Airbus A330-200 freighters.

A second Airbus A330-200F will enter into service on March 18, and will also serve the US.

The aircraft are being operated by Air Belgium, while ECS is selling capacity in its role as general sales agent.

Part of the aircraft’s capacity is dedicated to CMA CGM’s forwarding subsidiary, CEVA.

CMA CGM Air Cargo’s fleet will initially consist of four A330-200Fs.

By Damian Brett

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AFKLMP sets up Covid Service Centre to manage vaccine shipments

Import and Exports Worldwide

Air France KLM Martinair Cargo (AFKLMP) has established a Covid Service Centre to manage all of its coronavirus vaccine shipments.

The service centre, which was launched after a trial in selected countries, caters to the temperature requirements of different vaccines.

Suitable for use with different container types, the service centre enables shipments are marked as the “highest priority on board”, 24/7 dedicated monitoring  and security measures.

Additionally, all coronavirus vaccine shipments transported by the carrier will be marked with the mandatory handling code SHL (Save Human Life).

Senior vice president of sales and distribution GertJan Roelands, said: “Understandably, at this exceptional time, a great deal of attention is devoted to combating the coronavirus crisis and everything that comes with it, such as the transportation of vaccines. I am grateful that we can make an essential contribution to this. 

“Our extensive experience and know-how, our dedicated and well-trained teams, combined with our wide product range and global network, are the most important pillars to provide our customers with the best possible service.”

Last month, UNICEF signed agreements with several airlines, including AFKLMP, as part of its Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative, which will support efforts to provide equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines across the world.

By Rachelle Harry

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Vaccine flights: Air cargo swings into action

Urgent Airfreight

The number of vaccine shipments being transported by air is gradually taking off as more products are launched and more countries launch inoculation programmes. Below you will find all the latest updates on air cargo vaccine transportation operations from forwarders, airlines, airports and handlers.

MARCH 18: Airline alliance SkyTeam Cargo has launched a dedicated program for shipping Covid-19 vaccines. The V Excellence solution brings together the existing Customized Vaccines product, which offers special handling and priority, and the group’s Specialized Pharma product. “V Excellence is backed by a vast network reach combined with years of experience in special handling to guarantee the safe, reliable transportation of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines between continents,” said SkyTeam Cargo chairman and chief executive of Saudia Cargo, Omar Hariri.

MARCH 18: Air France KLM Martinair Cargo has set up a customer Covid Service Centre to manage all of its coronavirus vaccine shipments. Senior vice president of sales and distribution GertJan Roelands, said: “Understandably, at this exceptional time, a great deal of attention is devoted to combating the coronavirus crisis and everything that comes with it, such as the transportation of vaccines. I am grateful that we can make an essential contribution to this. Our extensive experience and know-how, our dedicated and well-trained teams, combined with our wide product range and global network, are the most important pillars to provide our customers with the best possible service.”

MARCH 15: Cathay Pacific Cargo will temporarily add passenger freighter flights between Brussels and Hong Kong to meet demand for vaccine transport. The extra cargo flights are planned until June and the schedule will be adapted to market demand and the latest developments. Earlier this month, Cathay Pacific Cargo shipped the first batch of 1m Fosun Pharma / BioNTech vaccines from Frankfurt to Hong Kong.

MARCH 15:  Delta has moved Covid-19 vaccines from the US to Europe. Routes include: Madrid to New York-JFK and Detroit to Brussels. The carrier’s pharma capabilities include temperature-controlled warehouses, and its monitoriing service provided by its Vaccine Watch Tower. Rob Walpole, vice president of Delta Cargo, commented: “We have been shipping vaccines daily throughout the US with 100% reliability, and as the global effort accelerates, we have been able to leverage our international network and pharma expertise to extend our vaccine distribution into numerous international markets. Our unique Vaccine Watch Tower has been critical in providing our customers peace of mind throughout the shipping process, in what is often a complex logistics chain.” 

MARCH 15: Turkish Cargo recently collaborated with Kuehne+Nagel to transport 1.7m doses of vaccines, on behalf of UNICEF for its Covax project, from India to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The carrier has already transported vaccines for the Covax initiative from Barcelona to Tunisia,  and from Amsterdam to Kiev, Tbilisi and Amman.

MARCH 11: Ethiopian Airlines has operated Covid-19 vaccine delivery flights from Mumbai to Addis Ababa and from Beijing to Brazzaville. Ethiopian transported the first batch of coronavirus vaccines from Mumbai to Addis Ababa on March 6 2021. The airline continued to play its prominent role in the vaccine distribution and transported the vaccines from Beijing to Brazzaville via Addis Ababa on March 10 2021.

MARCH 11: Etihad Cargo and EFL (Expolanka Freight) have carried a vital consignment of vaccines from India to Egypt. The two entities collaborated to carry a consignment of 12,475,000 Tetanus and Diphtheria vaccine doses produced in India, the largest vaccine manufacturing origin according to WHO. EFL handed over the shipment to Etihad Cargo’s care in Mumbai, with the UAE’s national carrier transiting the consignment through its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport en route to Cairo.

MARCH 10: Passive temperature-controlled packaging manufacturer Softbox is supporting Pfizer with its rollout of Covid-19 vaccines. The companies worked together to develop a temperature-controlled, reusable parcel shipper developed specifically for ultra-low temperature shipments, such as the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored at around -70 degrees Celcius in order for it to be effective.

MARCH 10: Qatar Cargo recently surpassed a milestone  with 10m Covid-19 vaccines transported, including vaccines for UNICEF as part of the five-year MoU to support UNICEF’s Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative.  Since December 2020, Qatar Airways Cargo has transported Covid-19 vaccines to twenty countries all over the world including Algeria, Cambodia, Denmark, Pakistan Rwanda, South Africa, the Netherlands, to name a few.

MARCH 8: Amerijet has delivered Covid-19 vaccines to the Caribbean and Central America on behalf of Odyssey Logistics Pvt. Ltd.  These shipments were a part of India’s Government gifted Covishield AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The vaccines bound for Jamaica, Guyana, and Nicaragua, were transferred via Amerijet’s 33,500 sq m hub at the Miami International Airport, which includes a 3,700 sq m temperature-controlled handling centre. “Delivering 350,000 doses of life-saving vaccines to destinations in our service region is something our entire company is proud of, and all of us at Amerijet are honored to be part of the global initiative to get the virus under control,” said chief executive Tim Strauss.

MARCH 3: Caribbean Airlines has transported Covid-19 vaccines from Toronto to Guyana. Marklan Moseley, general manager cargo and new business said: Caribbean Airlines is happy to have transported this important shipment. We have always carried temperature sensitive cargo and since the approval of vaccines for distribution, we ensured all measures were in place to transport same. Caribbean Airlines Cargo will continue to do its part in the movement of relief supplies throughout the region.” This latest shipment of vaccines will enable Guyana to advance the rollout of its vaccination programme.

MARCH 1: FedEx has today begun shipping the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine on behalf of McKesson Corp. to dosing centers throughout the US. The company has shipped millions of COVID-19 vaccines since US distribution began in mid-December 2020 and is prepared to scale up to accommodate anticipated growth in vaccine volume throughout the spring and summer. Nearly three months after Covid-19 vaccine distribution began, FedEx has shipped COVID-19 vaccines and supply kits to administration sites across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C. Covid-19 vaccine volume is split evenly with FedEx moving approximately half the doses allocated by the federal government.

FEBRUARY 27: Cathay Pacific Cargo carried 1m vaccine doses manufactured by Fosun Pharma/BioNTech from Frankfurt to Hong Kong. The batch was the first from Fosun Pharma/BioNTech to be delivered to Hong Kong, where Cathay is based. The carrier has already also transported a Fosun Pharma/BioNTech shipment to Penang on one of its freighters. Cathay also recently transported 1m doses of the Sinovac to Hong Kong. The doses were loaded in six temperature-controlled Envirotainer RAP e2 containers to keep them at 2°C to 8°C, in the bellyhold of an Airbus A330 passenger aircraft. The carrier also transported 200,000 of Sinovac doses to Mexico. They were stored in a single Envirotainer RAP e2 container and carried on a Boeing 747-8 freighter. Additionally, Cathay has transported a CanSinoBIO vaccine shipment via Beijing and Hong Kong to Mexico.

FEBRUARY 27: MASkargo successfully flew in the first batch of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines from China to Malaysia. Flight MH319, utilising Malaysia Airlines’ Airbus 330-300 aircraft, departed from Beijing Capital International Airport at 02:30hrs and safely landed at KL International Airport at 09:00hrs.  The Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines were flown in utilising the MH Centigrade product designed explicitly for time and temperature-sensitive shipments. MH Centigrade caters to deep-frozen (-20˚C and below), refrigerated (2˚C to 8˚C) or chilled (15˚C to 25˚C) shipments using its active containers ACT (Envirotainer) and passive containers PCT (Normal ULD with dry ice and thermal blankets).

FEBRUARY 26: Incheon International Airport sees a constant flow of passengers and cargo and on February 26 a fleet of UPS trucks lined up at South Korea’s main gateway ready to receive its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccines were packed and stored in Belgium for their journey to Incheon; and then driven to designated storage facilities throughout South Korea – maintaining strict temperature and quality controls – to be administered to front-line healthcare workers and others deemed most at risk.

FEBRUARY 26: Kuehne+Nagel successfully helped Sinovac Biotech Ltdfulfill its first Covid-19 vaccine shipment from Beijing, China to the Dominican Republic. The pilot shipment containing 768,000 vials of Covid-19 vaccine was stored in active temperature-controlled containers and arrived safely in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, on February 23, benefitting its citizens just before its Independence Day. The shipment was closely monitored and compliant with the most stringent standards to guarantee product integrity. Prior to this shipment, Kuehne+Nagel successfully fulfilled multiple crucial assignments for Sinovac, including an air charter from Beijing to Turkey for a door-to-door delivery of nearly a quarter-million flu vaccines.

FEBRUARY 25: Silk Way West Airlines has operated more than 100 charter flights to deliver a range of medical supplies during the pandemic, and has now signed a number of ambitious contracts in preparation for the delivery of temperature-sensitive cargo. Supplies are safely delivered to specially equipped warehouses, and are handled by personnel specifically trained for the sensitive cargo. In preparation, the airline optimised operational processes, introduced new technologies and modernised the 1,500 sq m cargo terminal at Heydar Aliyev International Airport, with the refrigeration and freezer warehouse area was inspected and upgraded.

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IATA’s new platform is open for airlines (including non-members), freight forwarders and third-party IT providers in the air cargo business.

FCL Containers

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on 24 March (Geneva time) launched a new platform to support the digitisation of the whole air cargo supply chain.

The IATA Enhanced Partner Identification and Connectivity (EPIC) platform is expected to simplify the complex process of digitally connecting the various stakeholders across the air cargo value chain. This includes enabling the efficient exchange of critical information such as messaging capabilities and identities.

“As the air cargo industry continues to digitalise, airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers and customs authorities need to be able to securely work together digitally,” IATA said.

Also read: Q&A: Glyn Hughes on vaccine logistics and collaboration

This is a considerable undertaking, the trade association noted, as currently more than 40,000 freight forwarders exchange messages with more than 450 airlines, and 23 third-party messaging service providers. In the absence of a tool for companies to exchange the information needed to make these business links, the process of digitization is essentially manual, slow and unduly complex.

“EPIC is a simple idea,” said Nick Careen, IATA senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo, and security. “It makes the information needed to do business across a digitized air cargo supply chain easily accessible.”

The timing couldn’t be more important, Careen noted, as the platform is expected to accelerate efficiency gains for air cargo. “COVID-19 has led to exponential growth of e-commerce and shippers are demanding quality services that only a digitized supply chain can provide,” he added.

In addition to supporting B2B processes, the participation of customs organisations in EPIC also supports digital customs clearance processes, particularly the efficient roll out of Advance Cargo Information (ACI) requirements, including Preloading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI) programmes.

EPIC is open for use by airlines (IATA members and non-members), freight forwarders and any third-party, intermediary or IT provider in the air cargo business. IATA noted that the platform has already attracted the participation of 32 airlines, 900 freight forwarder branches, 10 governments/customs authorities, five international organizations and 13 third-party messaging providers.

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