WorldACD: Special cargo bucking the trend

Analysis from WorldACD indicates airfreight volumes for September 2019 are similar to that of the previous six months, with a 5.4% decrease in volumes and a 6.1% direct ton km (DKT) decrease.

However, special cargo is playing an ever-more important part in differentiating airfreight markets as demand in general remains weak.

Over the January-September period, a disparity emerged among the 40 largest origin countries, whose combined air cargo output accounts for 87% of volumes globally. Ten of these countries posted year-on-year growth in volumes – which came out at a combined figure of 8.3% – while the remaining 30 countries registered a decline of -7.4%.

WorldACD attributed this development to a 10.3% increase in special cargo volumes from the 10 growing countries in the first nine months of 2019.

“The other thirty countries barely managed to grow in this category: +0.6%. But even more telling is the fact that in the top 10 countries combined, more than half of the total consists of special cargo (51.4% for Q1-3 2018 vs 52.3% for Q1-3 2019). For the other 30 countries, the share of special cargo is only a quarter.

“For years already, special cargo has outgrown general cargo, a trend propelled by an increased worldwide demand for special products (in particular perishables),” WorldACD went on. “Thus, it does not come as a surprise that Norway, Kenya, Colombia and Chile, countries in which outgoing special cargo accounts for more than 80% of the total, are all part of the top 10 group.”

Norway topped the list with growth of almost 20%; Pakistan and Vietnam also achieved growth above 10%. China saw no overall growth, but it recorded a 12.8% year-on-year increase in special cargo (mainly high-tech goods).

WorldACD said the role of special cargo is evident not only in volumes, but also in yields and rates.

“In Q1-3 2019, we saw the USD-yield drop by 8% year on year for general cargo, but by 4% for special cargo. And the gap was larger still in the above mentioned top 10 countries, which saw their combined special cargo yields drop by 2% only.”

Special cargo flown in September was up year on year, by 2.7%, with fish, seafood, pharma and other cool chain goods performing best.

But overall, the picture remains somewhat gloomy. General cargo declined by 8.7% compared to the same month of 2018 and total worldwide airfreight volumes shrank by 5.4% year on year in September, in a continuation of the pattern in the preceding six months.

Yield dropped by 11.5% year on year to $1.72. Air cargo revenues also fell, declining by 16.3%. The cargo load factor was 3.6 percentage points lower than a year ago – but 2.3 points higher month on month.

WorldACD said: “All origin regions suffered, Asia Pacific most (volumes down by 5.8% year on year, and revenues in USD by 18.9%) and Africa least (volumes down by 3.2% year on year, and revenues in USD by 6.2%).

“The destination Middle East and South Asia did better than all other destination areas (volume year on year -1% only).

“During the first three quarters of the year, all areas showed negative year-on-year trends, both in outgoing and in incoming volumes; Africa outbound was the only exception, registering a mere 1.1% increase.”

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