HK overtakes Memphis as busiest cargo airport

With China and Hong Kong driving a full third of cargo volume growth between now and 2014, industry pundits say Hong Kong International Airport must quickly proceed with the proposed third runway. Wong Joon San reports.


Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Taiwan’s Taipei will top the list of fastest growing international freight markets between 2009-2014, with the Russian Federation coming in fifth place, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) latest forecasts based on industry consensus. Over this five years review period, Hong Kong’s international freight market will grow at 12.3 per cent, China 11.7 per cent, Vietnam 11.4 per cent, Taiwan’s Taipei at 11.3 per cent and Russian Federation 11 per cent. “The volume growth expected in China and Hong Kong will account for a third of global volume growth over the period to 2014,” IATA director general and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani says. “By 2014, the largest international freight markets will be the US (8.8 million tonnes), Hong Kong (5.4 million tonnes), Germany (4.4 million tonnes), Japan (4.4 million tonnes) and China (3.8 million tonnes),” he says.

World’s Busiest In this regard, Hong Kong International Airport has earned the crown as world’s busiest airport in 2010, replacing Memphis which has had an 18-year run with the title. Hong Kong registered 4.1 million tonnes in 2010, thanks to 23.4 per cent growth, allowing it top Memphis, which had 3.9 million tonnes on 5.3 per cent growth. Memphis had been the world’s busiest cargo airport for 18 years straight, thanks in large part to FedEx Corp.’s operations. In order to sustain its ability to meet growth demand, the Airport Authority of Hong Kong has unveiled phase one of its HK$7 billion (US$898.32 million) midfield development project for Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), which includes, among others, a new concourse with 20 aircraft parking stands. Eleven of the 20 aircraft parking stands to be built at the midfield are bridge-served, inclusive of some stands equipped with three air bridges designed for superjumbo A380 aircraft. The remaining nine stands are operational stands not being connected to the midfield concourse with air bridges in phase one works. Construction will start in the third quarter of this year for completion by the end of 2015. The midfield area is located to the west of Terminal 1, between the two runways. It is the last piece of land on the airport island available for largescale development. The Government will also pursue a progressive liberalisation policy on air services, encouraging airlines to add more services to strengthen the international network and the airport’s transit role, Secretary for Transport & Housing Eva Cheng says, adding that the Airport Authority will launch a public consultation exercise on the airport’s master plan 2030 in the first half of this year, which includes exploring the feasibility of building a third runway and conducting preliminary studies. Speed up call Following the announcement, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as well as the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding & Logistics Ltd (HAFFA) urged the authorities in Hong Kong to speed up plans for the third runway at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). “Hong Kong outperforms its population size on the world stage because of its connectivity. That drives the economy and creates jobs. To protect the airport’s competitiveness, sufficient capacity is needed to support growth. The $900 million midfield terminal project will provide the passenger handling capability. But the current two runways are near saturation.” “I am here to make a strong plea to move forward with a third runway,” Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO in an address to the Aerospace Forum Asia in Hong Kong, recently. He points out that Hong Kong International Airport was planned in 1992 to handle 87 million passengers and 9 million tonnes of cargo, but the growth had been faster than anyone could have predicted. At the same time, the 60 movement per hour cap on aircraft movements limits capacity to much less than this. Even raising runway movements to 68 per hour as proposed by the Civil Aviation Department, capacity will only be 55 million passengers. HAFFA chairman Paul Tsui says the most important requirement that the airfreight industry needs is infrastructure enhancement, and this is not going to happen soon. “The airfreight growth in Hong Kong will last till 2017 or 2018, but its infrastructure development will take 10 years to develop.” “Hong Kong has at the moment just got past the feasibility development stage of the airport’s master plan 2030 and it had still not reached the conclusion yet. So it has to buck up or face airport infrastructure saturation by 2017 or 2018,” he says. ———————————————————- New Cathay Cargo Terminal rapidly taking shape Cathay Pacific Airways’ new air cargo terminal, being developed at an approximate development cost of HK$4.8 billion (US$616.5 million), is taking shape with the installation of the first sections of the materials handling system (MHS) at the ground level. The facility, which is occupying a site of around 10 hectares in the airport’s cargo area, is being developed by Cathay Pacific Services Ltd (CPSL) under a 20-year franchise agreement. It has been granted the right to invest in, design, construct and operate the new air cargo terminal at Hong Kong International Airport. “Siemens, the MHS manufacturer, built a mock-up of three components of the system – the airside interface mechanism, the landside workstations and the scissor lift that will transfer the ULDs from the trucks,” a Cathay spokesman says. The MHS is the terminal’s key element as it is the system that will move the freight in, out and around the building. Its installation begins following trials conducted using a mock-up constructed in the Mainland. Cathay’s operations, engineering and IT teams joined together to test the reaction of these components so that they could iron out any problems. The system has also been enhanced with a number of innovations such as a tilting mechanism to get the ULDs onto or off the airside interface with less power. The terminal has eight levels – CT1- CT8, with CT8 being the roof level. Work is making good progress and the main columns are now up to CT5. The roof is in place for both CT1 and CT2, and the beams for level three are in position with the precast slabs being currently installed. The ramps that will be used by the trucks to carry freight in and out of the building are also substantially constructed. The operations team is continuing with its development of the standard operating procedures for the terminal, while the IT team has finished the first two iterations of the testing of the warehouse operating system. The new terminal will be completed by the second half of 2011 with a designed annual air cargo throughput capacity of 2.6 million tonnes. The terminal will be a common-use facility open to all airline customers. ———————————————————-