Beijing will take steps to bolster domestic and international air cargo capacity amid the global coronavirus pandemic, including support for air freight companies and logistics firms.

The official China Daily newspaper quotes premier Li Keqiaing as stating that the massive reduction in global air traffic has created issues for supply chains owing to dwindling air cargo capacity.

“With the (COVID-19) pandemic rampaging across the world and air passenger services dwindling worldwide due to the outbreak, cargo volume carried by passenger planes has plummeted and shipping costs have risen significantly,” he is quoted as saying.

To counter this, Beijing intends to provide support for air cargo firms, to the extent that they will be able to “lease or purchase” additional cargo aircraft. In addition, mergers and reorganizations could be on the cards. Support will be directed to express delivery firms to help them support expanded air services and overseas operations.

Li said companies would receive support irrespective of their ownership. This suggests both privately owned firms and state-run airlines and companies will benefit from Beijing’s initiative. Li did not give details as to the overall cost of the plan.

“The manufacturing sector has been the first to resume operations, and experience has been gained in this process,” says Li.

“The major challenge is clogged supply chains. To date, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises have yet to resume full-capacity production, and this has affected the entire industry chain. It is thus critical that all supportive policies for smaller firms be promptly and fully delivered.”

Other initiatives to aide the flow of air cargo will include expedited customs inspections at key airports, and relaxations of slot rules at airports with significant cargo capacity.