Chuck Grieve

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad delivers the keynote address at the recent Air Freight Asia 2000. The bi-annual conference and exhibition, held for the first time in Malaysia, attracted more than 400 delegates and 47 exhibitors.

Chuck Grieve reports on highlights of the two-day event last week in Kuala Lumpur, organised by Payload Asia.

Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok airport, with some of the best cargo facilities in the world, is pricing itself out of contention and the local authorities are reluctant to do anything about it.

Arthur da Silva, Hong Kong-based managing director of Jet-Speed Air Cargo Forwarders, pulled no punches at Air Freight Asia 2000 when he laid the blame for this situation directly on the doorstep of the authorities for demanding a 20-year depreciation of investment from the franchise operators instead of the more usual 40 years.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority has a public duty "to have the guts to go to Beijing to persuade them" to extend the franchises of Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (HACTL) and Asia Airfreight Terminal (AAT) to 40 years.


The airport authority has already cut landing fees to attract more traffic to Chep Lap Kok, he says, so why can't the authority also reduce its rental charges to HACTL and AAT, conditional on their reducing terminal charges?

"If we can get our terminal charges down by 25% overall, I believe Hong Kong will have a better chance to remain competitive," he says.

Terminal charges are far too expensive compared with the rest of the world - as much as 19 cents a kilo for some categories of cargo, as against half that elsewhere.

Hong Kong airport should not be complacent because competition from Macao and especially Shenzhen could have significant impact on its operations.

He cites the example of Hong Kong's ocean freight terminal which has lost an estimated 15% of its business to Yantian Port, a new, lower-cost alternative in Shenzhen which has only opened four of 14 phases so far.


At the moment Shenzhen airport's operation is hampered by a lack of good roads and by problems with Chinese Customs, but if that changes, the loser will be Chep Lap Kok and Hong Kong as today some 90% of Hong Kong's air freight originates in Guangdong Province and Southern China.

He adds that the Chinese authorities could learn from Malaysia where the government supports the air transport industry as an engine of growth. "They should open their eyes as air cargo is a major service industry in Hong Kong."

Another speaker, Peter Kreiser, United Cargo's cargo marketing director, told the conference that on the whole, Asia's new airports are competitive.

"As long as liberalisation continues and bureaucracy is addressed, the new airports will remain competitive,' he says.

Source: Flight Daily News