Hong Kong cargo seeing slight pick-up in demand, but Hactl and AAT reductions now compounding

Hactl and AAT both reported a slight pick up in demand in Sep-2009, although a full recovery appears to still be some time away. Key to the recovery will be whether Hong Kong's cargo volumes move up significantly in the pre-Christmas period, after last year's disappointment. Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (HACTL) is optimistic, stating, “we expect further tonnage improvement, hopefully in a pre-Christmas peak.”

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific and Taiwan's EVA Air reported some improvements in cargo yields in Sep-2009, reflecting stronger volumes.

Hactl seeing cargo volumes “stabilising” in Sep-2009 

HACTL saw Sep-2009 tonnage further stabilise, with a total of 212,391 tonnes handled, for a milder drop of 4.3% year-on-year. However, it should be noted that air cargo volumes started to decline in Jul-2008, so contractions are now compounding.

Tonnage performance in 3Q2009 also showed “clear improvement” compared to second quarter levels, with reductions much milder than the cumulative year-to-date reduction of 16.3%. 

Hactl import volume continues growth trend 

HACTL’s export decline was 7.0% in Sep-2009, compared to cumulative reduction of 20.5% year-to-date, while import volume continued its growth in positive territory in the month, up 8.5%, for two months of positive growth after 12 months of contractions (compared to a year-to-date reduction of 12.4%). 

The transshipment volume was 37,712 tonnes for Sep-2009, a decline of 12.1%, and lower than the total transshipment volume in the first nine months of 2009 (-9.6%).

HACTL cargo traffic growth (% change year-on-year): Sep-2008 to Sep-2009

AAT announces (very) slightly improved Sep-2009 traffic

HACTL’s smaller rival, Asia Airfreight Terminal Co Ltd (AAT), handled 47,182 tonnes of cargo in Sep-2009, a 12% year-on-year contraction but a 9% month-on-month improvement, with export cargo decreasing 11% year-on-year and import volume down 15%. Transhipment cargo volume was up 9% year-on-year (but down 30% month-on-month), although off a small base, to 330 tonnes.

AAT cargo volume growth (% change year-on-year): Sep-2008 to Sep-2009

Outlook: Economic downturn and cross-Straits liberalisation creating challenges, but slight freight improvements being witness ahead of peak Xmas period

HACTL and AAT are still feeling the impact of the global economic downturn, in addition to the impact on the Hong Kong hub from cross-Strait liberalisation and the shift of manufacturing to coastal cities in Mainland China. These cities enjoy increasing direct freight services, particularly from integrators like FedEx which has established its intra-Asia hub at Hong Kong's Pearl River Delta rival, Guangzhou Airport.

Despite these rising pressures, Hong Kong's freight handlers are increasingly hopeful of a better performance in the lead up to holiday season, as the global economy starts to show signs of traction.

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