Hong Kong airfreight volumes hit by e-cigarette transhipment restrictions

By Damian Brett

Photo: Shutterstock

Air cargo volumes out of Hong Kong are being affected by regulations around the transport of e-cigarettes into the special administrative region (SAR) for transhipment.

The Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics (HAFFA) said that in April the Smoking Ordinance 2021 came into operation banning the import of smoking products, such as  electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco products and herbal cigarettes.

The ban also means the products can also no longer be transhipped through Hong Kong when brought in by truck for onward transport overseas, although air transhipment cargo and transit cargo which remains onboard aircraft and vessels is exempt.

A survey of members suggests 330,000 tons of air cargo per year are affected by the ban, with the value of the re-export cargo estimated to exceed CNY120bn.

HAFFA said the ban has “stifled the freight logistics industry environment and negatively impact the livelihoods of its employees”.

HAFFA chairman Gary Lau said: “Since the Legislative Council passed the Ordinance in October last year, the association has continued to receive a large number of complaints from our members and other industry stakeholders, reflecting that the Ordinance has had a seriously detrimental effect on the business environment.

“We have written to the chief executive/policy bureau on this matter four times.

“The Ordinance has led to a serious decline in Hong Kong’s overall air export volume, causing the industry, airlines, cargo terminals and Hong Kong International Airport to lose hundreds of thousands of tons of re-exports every year.

“This is bound to shake Hong Kong’s status as a regional transshipment hub, and people’s livelihoods have been dealt a huge blow.”

Lau said that HAFFA agrees with the original intention of the legislation to protect public health but strongly urged the government to allow transhipment by land.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to continue to work with the government to expand the scope of the exemption under the Ordinance to include land-air transhipment mode,” he said.

HAFFA held an emergency meeting on September 9 with industry organisations, the deputy financial secretary Michael Wong Wai Lun, secretary for transport and logistics Lam Sai Hung and the legislative council member for the transport functional constituency Frankie Yick Chi Ming.

“The meeting was called to discuss the government’s ban on the transshipment of e-cigarettes by land, a move which has stifled the freight logistics industry environment and negatively impact the livelihoods of its employees,” HAFFA said.

“HAFFA aired opinions, sought solutions, and proposed a new set of secured land transportation methods to prevent illegal e-cigarette products from entering the black market through land transshipment with the aim of alleviating government concerns,” it added.

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