Sea freight labour dispute boosts airfreight

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The timing of the Lunar New Year and the US West coast port congestion boosted airfreight in February, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The association says there was a sharp increase in year-on-year (YOY) volumes and freight tonnes kilometres (FTK) was up 11.7 per cent, compared to February 2014. International growth was 12.7 per cent and domestic growth was 5.5 per cent.

Airfreight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometres (AFTK), grew by 7.4 per cent YOY. International growth was 8.9 per cent and domestic was 1.4 per cent.

The freight load factor for February was 46.5 per cent. For international airfreight it reached 50.5 per cent and for domestic it was 30.2 per cent. “A combination of factors made February the strongest month in a very long time for airfreight. Nobody expects growth to continue at this pace. As we look forward, however, there is room for optimism. Business confidence improved slightly and trade continues to grow. The year is shaping up in line with a growth expectation of four to five per cent,” says IATA’s director general and chief executive officer, Tony Tyler.

The association says the February result was accelerated by the timing of the Lunar New Year activities, as airfreight was given a boost in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and volumes were boosted by consequences of the US port slowdown.

These factors it says showed up most in Asia Pacific, with carriers recording a YOY rise in FTKs of 20.8 per cent. IATA says Japanese carriers, in particular, from automotive exports, benefited from the modal shift from sea to air, owing to congested sea ports. Capacity grew by 12.7 per cent.

IATA says that European airlines reported a 1.1 per cent rise in FTKs and capacity grew by 2.4 per cent. But, it explains the European economy remains, “in the doldrums,” and the effects of the Russian sanctions and the region’s recession continue to dampen demand. The association says there is some sign of improvement in manufacturing output, which could lead to stronger growth in the months to come.

North American airlines grew FTKs by 8.7 per cent compared to February 2014 and also benefitted from the port congestion. Capacity grew by 0.7 per cent.

Middle Eastern carriers expanded FTKs by 17.6 per cent and capacity grew by 19.2 per cent. IATA says they have further gained by expanding their networks and encouraging freight to transit through their hubs.

Latin American airlines saw FTKs fall sharply by 9.6 per cent in February and capacity grew by 1.9 per cent compared to the same month last year. IATA says performance has been impacted by the struggling Brazilian and Argentinian economies. African carriers reports reported 8.3 per cent growth in FTKs in February and capacity grew by 3.8 per cent. IATA explains that regional trade growth has counterbalanced the weakness in the Nigerian and South African economies.

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