With the expansion of China’s middle class, Hong Kong Air Cargo Industry Services (Hacis) has firmly focused on the country’s fast growing e-commerce business, managing director Vivien Lau tells Air Cargo Week.
Though the Chinese economic growth has slowed to single digit figures, this has mainly hit general trade but e-commerce seems unaffected, due to the huge demand for quality overseas produce. Hong Kong is the natural entry point as the airport has the international links.
“Hacis’ focus is now firmly on the fast growing e-commerce business in China, driven by rapidly-growing consumer demand for a wide range of goods produced in other markets,” Lau notes.
She says the e-commerce is driving cross border road feeder services between Hong Kong and China, which is driving overall airfreight demand: “E-commerce traffic will make an increasing contribution to our total SuperLink China Direct (SLCD) traffic levels, and we hope this will counteract much of the temporary reduction in general cargo.”
The Pearl River Delta economy still relies on the OEM and OBM manufacturing industries creating demand for imports including silicone from Europe and fabric from the USA, but the rise of e-commerce is driving growth for branded products such as clothing, healthcare and baby care.
Despite China’s economic growth slowing, it is still considerably stronger than most markets, and rising disposable incomes means consumers are increasingly able to afford high-quality goods from abroad. Lau comments: “This is manifesting itself in growing reliance on online shopping, leading to a wide variety of goods imports from an equally wide spread of production centres globally.”
Lau says: “Most airlines do not operate direct flights to destinations such as Guangzhou, Nansha and Jiangmen; but our SLCD road feeder service allows them to easily extend their coverage to more remote Chinese cities.”
Despite Hong Kong being a natural entry point for Chinese e-commerce, transit times and border delays can be an issue. Hacis is trying to streamline road feeder services and improve transit times. Lau explains: “We devote considerable resources to ensuring all paperwork complies with customs procedures, and we are able to identify special regimes that apply to some commodities that reduce duties and processing times.”
To improve speed, all cross border trucks are equipped with GPS E-seals so they can use the fast lane at the border without queuing or stopping, which can save up to three hours at peak times. Lau says: “Hacis worked with both HKC&E and China Customs to pioneer the Single E-lock Scheme, and is one of a restricted number of carriers now allowed to use it.”