Shenzhen Airport backs cargo as international volumes soar

Source: Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport

Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZX) is investing in cargo terminals and faster handling of e-commerce goods to supercharge international volumes as China’s vast airfreight market reopens for business.

The third largest cargo airport on the Chinese mainland – and the biggest in terms of domestic cargo volumes – plus a logistics hub for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, SZX handled 776,000 tons of international airfreight in 2022, a nearly 20% increase for the third year running.

SZX processed a total of 1.5m tons of cargo in 2022, a slight dip of 3.9% on 2021.

If you compare SZX’s annual growth rate with other major Chinese hubs, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, it performed much better, especially for international traffic.

Since 2021, Shenzhen Airport has become one of the top 20 airports with the highest cargo volume in the world.

Connecting the world

SZX handled over 20,000 cargo flights in 2022 that served 57 cargo routes, connecting 23 countries around the world.

There are currently 28 airlines operating freighters in SZX, including UPS, FedEx, DHL, Polar Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways.

In 2022, Shenzhen added several key international destinations, including Bangalore, Doha and Leipzig.

Ying Xuemin, chairman of Shenzhen Airport Logistics Company, says: “On the one hand, we never stop introducing new partners, especially leading airlines in the industry, to drive more airlines to expand business in the Shenzhen market.

“On the other hand, we are very supportive of the airlines based in Shenzhen and help with their business development.

“The presence of more and more high-level cargo airlines has enriched the international cargo route network of SZX, fully demonstrating the vitality of Shenzhen’s air cargo market.”

E-commerce investments

Ying continues: “Shenzhen gathers the largest number of cross-border e-commerce market players in China. Taking the Amazon platform as an example, Shenzhen enterprises account for more than 30% of Amazon’s Chinese sellers, much higher than other domestic cities.

“The top five logistics enterprises in China’s cross-border e-commerce all have a business presence in SZX.

“More than half of the volumes handled by SZX are express goods. In the future, we will serve more and more Chinese cross-border e-commerce enterprises and build a new global Cross-border Express Distribution Center.”

DHL Express is one e-commerce delivery giant full of confidence in the air cargo development potential of SZX.

Yang Mei, director of DHL Express Shenzhen, explains: “Shenzhen is an important transit centre for our company in China and South China.
“With the rapid development of cross-border e-commerce in Shenzhen, the demand for international express logistics continues to grow.

“In order to further improve international express handling capacity and services, we are working with SZX to rebuild and expand our facilities and upgrade them to form the South China Super Gateway. It is expected to be delivered to DHL by SZX for use this year.”

Express cargo centre. Source: Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport

Yang adds: “The hub will help Shenzhen and its surrounding regions accelerate the export of cross-border high-quality Chinese e-commerce goods.

“We will continue to improve our cargo handling capacity to meet market demand, open more cargo routes in cooperation with SZX, and provide more adequate and stable transport capacity and higher quality services.”

Shenzhen’s high-tech industry is important for economic growth and accounts for more than one-third of the city’s GDP.

Wu Man, general manager of Cainiao International Air Logistics Department, says: “Shenzhen is the core city of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, with superior geographical location and intensive high-tech industrial clusters, and high demand for air cargo.

“SZX strongly supports the air cargo business, and has previously given a lot of support and assistance to newcomers in business cooperation, airport handling, operation resource, etc.

“We are planning to set up an air cargo centre at SZX to form a ‘double hub’ operation mode in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, providing better support for Cainiao’s global 72-hour logistics network.

“Cainiao will continue to increase business and maintain close cooperation with SZX.”

Security focus

A series of reforms in air security management has seen Shenzhen Airport take the lead in China to put practices in line with international standards.

In 2021, the airport held the Air Logistics Safety Forum jointly with Aviation Cooperation Programs (ACP), Boeing, CAAC, airlines, freight forwarders and other industry parties to discuss safe and efficient security strategies.

SZX has now implemented six industrial cargo security pilot projects, including the world’s first CT security screening machine.

For locally produced cross-border e-commerce goods with lithium batteries, SZX has implemented a whitelist system to provide safer, more convenient and efficient security services for related enterprises.

Ying states: “We have secured the transportation of more than 10,000 products, tens of thousands of tons of lithium batteries, cold chain and pharmaceutical goods, further meeting the core demands of Chinese local enterprises for efficient and rapid security inspection.

“More and more customers will enjoy convenient security inspection services without the need to issue air transport identification reports, which is at the forefront of domestic airports in China.”

SZX cooperated with the Customs authority’s Efficiency Improving Plan, using the latest information technology at the customs checkpoints for smart identification of goods at the entry gate, achieving rapid customs clearance at the international cargo terminal.

Customs area. Source: Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport

Ying says: “SZX has fully realised the export pre-declaration mode. The efficiency of cargo turnover has been improved by 45%, and the export handling capacity of the cargo terminal has been improved from 550 tons/day to 800 tons/day.”

Export goods can now arrive four hours in advance at the international cargo terminal, compared with at least two days previously.

Ying adds: “We can flexibly adjust the declaration and entry time according to the different types of goods and export needs of customers, which greatly facilitates enterprises. It saves a lot of customs clearance costs.”

Backing logistics

SZX has launched the planning and construction of eight logistics facility projects with a total investment of more than $720m and a footprint of around 800,000 sq m that will see the annual cargo support capacity exceed 1.5m tons.

Ying states: “We are speeding up the construction of the second international cargo terminal. After project completion, 18,000 sq m of international cargo handling will be added, with an annual support capacity of 110,000 tons.”

It is expected to open by the middle of 2023.

SZX is also stepping up the infrastructure construction of the Cross-border Express Distribution Center, a third runway, and the North Cargo area.

“Our goal is that by 2025, the annual cargo volume of SZX will exceed 2.1m tons, and we will move towards a future annual handling capacity goal of 4.5m tons,” says Ying.

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