Although the Far East may have been the initial epicentre of Covid-19, the region has managed to control the effects, with many Asian airfreight players reporting an increase of business in 2020.
Wilson Kwong, chief executive of Hong Kong’s neutral air cargo operator, Hactl, is optimistic. “All recessions – no matter the cause or the depth – will come to an end,” he assures. “This one will be no exception.
“While the global economy gradually recovers, airfreight will receive an interim boost from vaccine transportation, as well as the on going and accelerating growth in ecommerce, which has moved from a discretionary alternative means of purchasing to a virtual necessity due to continuing restrictions on bricks and mortar retailing around the world.”
HACTL have invested in automation from the get go, which paid off considerably in 2020 when it came to remote working.
“We invested in IT equipment and resources to make remote working possible for many more staff, and we simplified and further digitised our systems and procedures to dispense with the need for physical meetings,” explains Kwong.
The high degree of automation also accommodated the dramatic switch from passenger bellies to freighters.
“Recent upgrades and digitisation in our ramp operations meant we were able to handle the sudden growth in freighter traffic with the same levels of equipment and manpower.
“At the same time, recognising that ecommerce growth was going to accelerate as a result of COVID19, we have invested in a new ecommerce fulfilment centre to assist our customers to win a greater share of this business,” Kwong adds.
Also recognising the need for increased efficiency in vaccine handling, Hactl have made many changes and investments including an expedited “Golden Route” through their giant pharma facility and they were one of the first handlers to operate thermal dollies on the ramp.
“Our facility is fully prepared for handling and re-charging active thermal containers. So the scale of the Covid-19 global vaccination programme, and its special handling requirements, pose no challenge to our operations,” Kwong explains. “We are fully ready.”
Despite the expected increase in pharma handling, it is business as usual for the Hong Kong based operator, which includes handling of oversized cargo.
“The most recent example of outsize handling was two 21m long crates containing railway track. The two boxes totalled some 20 tonnes in weight. Their exceptional length meant we had to operate four main deck loaders in a row, and precisely synchronise their lowering to the ground,” said Kwong.
With uncertainty still looming for the year ahead, Kwong assures Hactl will “strive to bring more cargo through Hong Kong and help our customer airlines secure a larger share of it.
“If we empower our customers to maximise their opportunities from cargo, their success will become our success.”