Air cargo capacity continues to climb but so do rates

By Damian Brett

Airlines have been continuing to respond to urgent demand for the transport of medical equipment by adding extra cargo capacity but it has not put the brakes on rate increases out of China and Hong Kong.

TAC Index figures show that last week average air cargo rates from Shanghai to North America breached the $10 per kg mark to hit $10.55 per kg  – up 13% on a week earlier and another record for the index which began in March 2016.

From Shanghai to Europe there was a 17% week-on-week increase to $10.45 per kg, also a record for the trade.

Prices out of Hong Kong were also on the up last week – increasing by 22.6% week-on-week to North America to $8.18 per kg and by 12.6% to $5.98 per kg to Europe.

Meanwhile, statistics from Seabury Consulting show that capacity has been added to the market over the last few weeks. Capacity from the Asia Pacific region to North America was last week 4% lower than a year ago, while at the end of March capacity was 19% down on a year earlier.

Capacity from Asia Pacific to Europe is now 20% down on a year ago, compared with 30% at the end of March.

Meanwhile, capacity on the overall air cargo market was 29% behind last year last week, while the figure stood at 35% at the end of March.

Freight forwarder Agility even reported that capacity out of Shanghai (PVG) is actually 6% up on a year earlier.

However, the company said there are other hold ups at PVG: “[The airport] is reporting extremely heavy congestion on feeder roads, parking lots, and cargo terminals.

“Entry to terminal facilities can take 36 to 40 hours. Trucks are not allowed to unload outbound cargo until 48 hours prior to scheduled flight departure.

“As of May 6, charter cargo operations will move to PACTL West terminal because of heavy congestion at PACTL I. Charter-handling applications at MU Phase I and West terminal were suspended as of May 3.”

It added that outbound airfreight capacity is under tremendous pressure among all mainland China export markets as production resumes and passenger flight cancellations are sustained.

Meanwhile, the forwarder reported that new rules mean Chinese airlines are restricted to only flying one route per week to/from China to all other countries. Foreign carriers may only fly to China once a week, irrespective of the origin point.

Air cargo derivatives broker Freight Investor Services (FIS) said that forwarders were looking to secure contracts, including charter leases, for the third and fourth quarter of the year.

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