Over the past year, Air Partner, the global private charter and freight company has expanded its operations throughout the Asia Pacific region from its Singapore base.
ACW spoke to Mike Hill, senior vice president, Asia Pacific at Air Partner about the company’s presence in the region going forward.
ACW: Would you say that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent ‘road to recovery’ has sped up Air Partner’s freight operations in the Asia Pac region?
Mike Hill: Air Partner has responded to the pandemic by providing expanded and smooth freight operations in the major trade lanes between Asia/USA and Asia/Europe to meet unprecedented demand for PPE and other pharmaceutical products. This coupled with the capacity issues to sea freight that we are currently witnessing, has necessitated the need for increased airfreight capacity.
Since the onset of COVID-19, our Singapore office has been working around the clock with colleagues in USA, Europe and the Middle East to enable provision of the best charter solutions and operational support, wherever the client is located.
In terms of the ‘road to recovery’, Air Partner continues to provide time-critical support for the on going vaccine rollout in the region by providing transport for PPE, test kits and associated medical cargo.
ACW: What challenges has the pandemic resulted in in the region that are region-specific?
Hill: The pandemic has caused major disruption for the sea freight industry. A lack of containers in Asia and port disruption has pushed prices sky high, shipping schedules have been thrown into chaos and capacity, is requiring 3-4 weeks advance notice.
The congested SE Asia/USA trade lane has seen airfreight rates thus rise even higher and some freight forwarders have been securing capacity with extensive air charter programmes provided from Air Partner. As a consequence, Air Partner has seen commodities that are usually “sea freight commodities”, now being loaded on to our chartered aircraft.
ACW: Is Air Partner’s previous success with freight operations in Asia-Pac driving growth in the region?
Hill: This has been the busiest time we have ever encountered as a business, and this was reflected in Air Partner’s record trading performance results in 2020. We are pleased that we could play an important role during a very challenging time, particularly with regards to transportation of PPE and other time-critical operations. Our Singapore team has now grown to five people and we look forward to growing the business in the Asia Pacific region further.
ACW: Is Air Partner still supporting freight operations around COVID in the region?
Hill: Yes, Air Partner is still carrying out freight operations to transport PPE, test kits and pharmaceutical items to support the vaccine roll out globally. But in general, less PPE is moving by charter nowadays due to the high airfreight rates.
ACW: Has the Asia-Pac client base expanded during the last six months?
Hill: Our client base in the area has expanded dramatically within a short time, due to our activity during this pandemic situation. We’ve provided support and efficient services to a wide range of new clients, maintaining strong existing relationships, and building new ones. We look forward to introducing the full range of services from Air Partner to the region as we emerge from the pandemic.
ACW: What are your predictions for freight operations in the Asia Pac region over the next 6 months, for Air Partner’s business and for the region as a whole?
Hill: Until sea freight recovers to pre-COVID operational levels, I expect to see continued strong demand for airfreight. From an e-Commerce perspective, the monumental shift to purchasing online is significant. Some purchasing habits will remain changed forever due to COVID, and this will require an additional need for capacity compared to pre-COVID times.
Since the onset of the pandemic there have been a high number of new freighters coming into service, which I predict will be very much required to fulfil this general higher demand for airfreight, which should continue to remain high throughout most of 2021.
It’s likely that some of the older less fuel-efficient aircraft that have been utilised throughout the pandemic to help meet the increased demand, will again be removed from service later in the year as rates may potentially begin to drop toward the second half of 2021.