HONG KONG: Tight capacity causes peak season jams

Insufficient capacity in the market combined with last minute peak season surges resulted in an air cargo backlog that began in China and Hong Kong from early October and rapidly spread to other Asian airports including Shanghai, Beijing and Korea, leaving forwarders fighting for space on flights to Europe. An unprecedented backlog of 3,500 tonnes, […]


Insufficient capacity in the market combined with last minute peak season surges resulted in an air cargo backlog that began in China and Hong Kong from early October and rapidly spread to other Asian airports including Shanghai, Beijing and Korea, leaving forwarders fighting for space on flights to Europe. An unprecedented backlog of 3,500 tonnes, or the equivalent of nearly 34 B747-400 freighters, at Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) at the end of November translated to delays of up to a week. Freight forwarders said cargo was also building-up at Bangkok, Singapore and Taipei, where rates had increased to around US$4kg, by late November.

“This year has been unique, because there have been so many last-minute orders,” said Sunny Ho, director of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council. “Over the last few months, sentiment has been improving, unlike inventories which were low, but nobody really anticipated shortages. Volumes waiting to be air freighted keep on building up.”

The massive scaling back of capacity by scheduled cargo carriers left a void that was quickly tapped by charter carriers which pushed rates up to as much as $550,000 for a Hong Kong- Europe B747 rotation. But carriers have also been cautious about reinstating capacity as nobody knows what demand will be like after the Christmas peak in January and through the Chinese New Year in February.