Air cargo markets were “substantially weaker” in 2015 compared to passenger figures with a modest 2.3 per cent growth in total freight, according to the Airports Council International (ACI).
The association says this was largely due to subdued growth in emerging markets and developing economies, along with a more modest recovery in advanced economies.
ACI says this growth is comprised of a 2.5 per cent rise in international freight and a 1.8 per cent uplift in domestic freight on an annualised basis and adds: “The faster-than-expected slowdown in Chinese imports and exports reflects weaker capital investment and manufacturing activity, which were key drivers for global economy over the last two decades.
“Even though all regions remained in positive territory where airfreight growth is concerned, only the Middle East demonstrated a strong increase of 10.7 per cent in 2015, whilst all other regions grew only marginally.”
ACI explains freight at airports in Africa increased by 3.2 per cent during 2015. The major airfreight markets of South Africa and Egypt grew by 11.3 per cent and six per cent respectively, but a number of countries reported declines, including Kenya (-5.1 per cent) and Nigeria (-2.6 per cent).
Geopolitical risks in Northern Africa coupled with lower commodity prices and high borrowing costs weighed heavily on several African economies, ACI says, even though most countries are expected to see a gradual pick-up of growth in the coming years.
ACI says Asia Pacific saw a marginal increase of 0.7 per cent in December 2015, and China, accounting for almost a third of traffic in the region, grew by 3.3 per cent, Japan grew by 0.9 per cent, Hong Kong remained flat at 0.1 per cent growth, whilst India posted robust 6.4 per cent in total freight. Korea reported marginal growth of 0.4 per cent.
Europe saw 0.7 per cent growth, ACI says. The largest European markets of Germany, France and the Netherlands saw declines in volumes of 0.2 per cent, 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively, while the UK remained flat, up 0.2 per cent. Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and Turkey, grew by 8.6 per cent, five per cent, 4.2 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively.
Latin America-Caribbean saw a major decline in airfreight traffic of 9.1 per cent. At the same time, Colombia saw a 4.9 per cent rise, Mexico a 7.8 per cent surge while Peru and Argentina reported declines of 1.2 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively, and Ecuador saw 8.3 per cent growth.
Some major airports experienced airfreight increases, such as Mexico City (+50,000 tonnes), San Juan (+50,000 tonnes) and Bogota (+32,000 tonnes). Others reported air losses, such as in Campinas (-40,000 tonnes), Manaus (-30,000 tonnes) and Sao Paulo-Guarulhos (-25,000 tonnes).
The Middle East saw 10.7 per cent growth, which is over five times greater than the global growth rate. The United Arab Emirates reported a 4.4 per cent uplift, while Qatar saw a massive 47.3 per cent rise in 2015.
North America saw a 2.4 per cent increase in 2015. A number of airports reported substantial increases including Chicago-OHare (+163,000 tonnes), Anchorage (+132,000 tonnes), Los Angeles (+98,000 tonnes) and Cincinnati (+74,000 tonnes).
Houston lost 33,000 tonnes of airfreight as compared to the previous year while Memphis and Louisville, the two major cargo hubs in the region, saw growth of 0.9 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.