HONG KONG – At the height of the peak season’s surge of activity, the ground floor of the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal was a hive of activity, where transshipments were being scanned, broken down, consolidated or repackaged and then hustled through the facility. During Monday’s tour of the facility by the operators, Cathay Pacific Services Ltd. (CPSL), as part of this week’s Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference (ALMC), Joanna Kong, assistant marketing communication manager for CPSL, said the transit times for the transshipments were averaging five hours.
This speed is one of the reasons that Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is expecting to see a strong peak season this year. In a statement from the Hong Kong Airport Authority, transshipments surged ahead 13 percent last month, compared to October from the previous year. “Among the key trading regions, traffic to and from Europe and Southeast Asia increased most significantly during the month,” the authority said.
HKIA, already the largest in the world in terms of annual tonnage (4.38 million in 2015), reported that overall cargo volume was up by 7.1 percent in October, compared with the same month in the previous year, handling 462,000 tons for the 31-day period. For the year to date, HKIA has handled 3.7 million tonnes, from January through October, which was an increase of nearly 2 percent, year-over-year.
As the largest airfreight contributor of the 15 carriers that use the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal, Cathay Pacific Airways also played a major role in boosting the peak-season numbers. In October, the carrier reported that cargo traffic was up 3.2 percent, year-over-year, to 985 million revenue ton kilometers (RTKs), which as continued a robust increase in volume every Month since June 2016. For the first 10 months of 2016, cargo traffic at Cathy Pacific was up 0.4 percent, y-o-y, to 8.7 billion RTKs.
The US$760 million Cathay Pacific terminal uses several automated technologies, Kong said, such as real-time barcode-scanning systems to track payloads, an RFID tagging system to optimize truck traffic and a security systems that uses more than 1,000 closed-circuit TV cameras to monitor all functions. The facility also has a container storages system with 2,445 positions, a robotically controlled bulk storage systems with 4,224 positions, and a 2,000-square-meter temperature-controlled storage area for pharmaceuticals, food, flowers and other perishables.
Now entering its fourth year of full operations, the terminal handled about 1.7 million tonnes of cargo in 2015, but is designed to handle a throughput of 2.6 million tonnes, Kong said, so there is a lot of room for the facility to handle more after the third runway is built at HKIA. Work on the third runway, she said, began in August and is expected to be completed by 2024, potentially increasing the airport’s capacity to 8 million tonnes per year.