Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways and leading handlers at Hong Kong International Airport reported a major uptick in volumes last month as exports from China surged.
Combined Cathay Pacific and Dragonair cargo and mail tonnage showed positive growth in September for the first time this year as volumes rose 2.4 percent year-over-year to 134,584 metric tons, also an increase on the 123,403 metric tons carried in August.
James Woodrow, general manager of cargo sales and marketing, said demand out of key markets began to pick up from mid-September onward, helped by shipments of high-tech consumer products out of mainland China and other manufacturing centers such as Vietnam.
“There was also a short pre-holiday rush in the buildup to the National Day “golden week” in the mainland,” he added.
Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd., the major handler at HKIA, the world’s largest cargo airport, said September’s volume was its best year-over-year growth since January 2011.
Exports in September were up 2 percent compared to a year earlier, the best increase since the post Chinese New Year surge of March 2012. Imports and transshipments rose 9.3 percent and 13.6 percent, respectively, helping the company report its second-best quarterly result since the final three months of 2010’s bumper year.
Asia Airfreight Terminal, another handler at HKIA, also reported growth in demand in September as volumes increased 8 percent compared to September 2011, boosted by a 10 percent hike in exports.
“Exports from China are proving more resilient than many predicted, imports are looking better again, and transshipments continue to play an increasingly important part in our overall throughput, endorsing Hong Kong’s growing role as Asia’s cargo hub,” said Lilian Chan, executive director of Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals.
“The slow but steady recovery in our figures also gives us reason to believe that 2013 trends should continue positively, and that we are back to sustained — if modest — overall industry growth again,” Chan said.
However, Cathay said some long-haul markets such as Europe remained weak; this had seen a 3.3 percent year-over-year contraction in September measured in cargo and mail metric ton kilometers flown. The carrier’s load factor fell 2 percentage points to 62.8 percent last month despite a capacity decrease of 0.3 percent.
Woodrow said Cathay would operate more scheduled services to Europe and the Americas from mid-October onward, but would still fall short of the number of freighters operated in the same period in 2010. “The market from Asia to Europe, in particular, remains weak and ultra price-competitive as supply continues to exceed demand despite the capacity cuts,” he added.
In the year through September, Cathay’s tonnage declined 8.3 percent compared with a capacity drop of 4.9 percent.