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HKG to focus on e-commerce, high-value cargo and developing regional connectivity

In a new report outlining its vision for the future, Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) has identified cross-border e-commerce, high-value cargo, and enhancing regional services as the three major focus areas for its airfreight business that will help it maintain the top spot on the list of busiest cargo airports.

The airport authority said that the cargo strategy is based on the major changes in global trade patterns and the supply chain for high-end products. These are driven predominantly by cross-border e-commerce, which has resulted in growing numbers of electronics, perishables and pharmaceutical shipments. To take advantage of these trends, the airport is investing in expanding its airfreight capabilities with a number of infrastructural upgrades.

A premium logistics center covering approximately 380,000 square meters is scheduled to begin operations in 2023. The facility will be built by a joint venture led by Alibaba’s logistics arm, Cainiao Network, and will be capable of handling tens of millions of parcels every year. Similarly, DHL is expanding its own Central Asia Hub and Hong Kong Post has plans to expand its Air Mail Centre at the airport.

For pharmaceutical products and fresh produce, meat and seafood, HKG is already certified under the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) and Center of Excellence for Perishables Logistics (CEIV Fresh) programs. It is also a strategic member of Pharma.Aero, the cross-industry collaborative initiative aiming to improve the quality of pharmaceutical handling worldwide.

According to the airport authority, it would continue to invest in more cold chain facilities as part of its focus on high-value cargo as a key business development strategy. “In order to provide end-to-end temperature-controlled transportation processes airside, we have acquired 21 additional cool dollies, which will be in operation by phases in 2019,” said a spokesperson at Airport Authority Hong Kong. “Also, the development of a sheltered apron for short-term staging of temperate-controlled cargo is underway.”

HKIA and Pharma.Aero founding member Brussels Airport launched an airport-to-airport pharma corridor earlier this year, providing assurance that all shipments would be handled in compliance with the CEIV Pharma standard. “HKIA plans to extend this model to its collaborations with other Pharma.Aero member airports with a view to forming a network of pharma corridors,” the spokesperson said. “Pharma shippers will then have a network to cover their trade lanes which meet their shipping needs.”

The airport authority is looking into the feasibility of building an airside facility after the three-runway system is in place in 2024 to support land-air and sea-air transshipments. “This planned intermodal air cargo handling facility is to facilitate mainly intermodal transhipments to and from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA),” said the spokesperson. Another facility for air-air transhipments is also being planned.

HKG, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN), Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZX), Macao International Airport (MFM) and Zhuhai Airport (ZUH) are all located within the GBA, which contains nine cities and a population of about 70 million. The airport authority said that it would work with stakeholders to cooperate with the other four airports to promote passenger and cargo traffic.

Taking into account the three-runway system as well as all the other logistics infrastructure being planned, the airport’s forecasts have its total capacity for cargo and mail reaching approximately 10 million tonnes by 2035.

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Jeff Lee

Jeff Lee is the Associate Editor of the company’s monthly newsletter, Cargo Facts, and weekly e-mail publication, Cargo Facts Update. Prior to joining the company in 2019, Jeff covered the freight industry with another publication for four-and-a-half years. He holds a Bachelor of Laws from University College London and a Master of Journalism from the University of Hong Kong.