Singapore airfreight ‘an exciting market’

REMEMBER the Asian Tigers? In the 1990s, economies such as Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan were the wonders of the age, developing fast and grabbing the world’s economic headlines. Their airports and airlines developed likewise, with carriers such as Singapore Airlines and China Airlines [of Taiwan] rapidly expanding their freighter fleets.
Then along came China, and one would be forgiven for thinking that the tigers are now more like pussy cats. At Singapore’s Changi Airport, for example, 2012 cargo volumes fell 3.2 per cent, putting them back to the same level as 2010. In the first seven months of this year the airport managed a sedate 1.3 per cent rise in tonnage.
Meanwhile, in June, Singapore Airlines announced that it was parking a second B747-400 freighter, having already parked one in December.
Look again. Kelvin Wong, executive director for logistics at the Economic Development Board – Singapore’s government agency, which is responsible for developing the island’s economy – sees those largely static airfreight volumes as an indicator of Singapore’s success.
Why? Because the city state has rapidly been advancing up the manufacturing and logistics value chain, and one consequence of that is that some individual products have become smaller.
Wong points out that whereas not so long ago Singapore was a huge exporter of HP printers and Compaq computers – “all those large brown boxes” as he puts it – now it is moving sophisticated medical devices, microelectronics, and aerospace parts.
“These are higher-end products, but smaller,” he points out. There is also what he acknowledges is a drift to sea freight. “Businesses are realising that they must find a lower cost, more efficient way to move their goods, and they are learning that through better phasing of shipments, they do not have to fly. So given these two trends – a shift to smaller products and a shift to sea freight – the fact that our volumes are holding up is a very strong indicator of how we have been able to develop the economy.”
Read Peter Conway’s full Interview in the next Air Cargo News 23 September 2013 – Issue No. 761

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