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Shifting lift

Asia’s airports are adapting to a changing world, with growth in demand for transporting products such as pharmaceuticals and e-commerce prompting the evolution, as Ian Putzger discovers

Asia's major gateways continue to enjoy growth in their cargo throughput, albeit at lower rates than in the past, and their claims to hub roles beyond their doorstep remain strong. Shifts in the mix of commodities are prompting airport authorities and handlers to cultivate their ability to cater to the needs of fast growing types of traffic like pharmaceuticals and e-commerce.


Incheon International Airport


Although throughput at Incheon International Airport in the first nine months of 2016 was up 2.4% to 2 million tons, the airport authority sees a need for proactive steps, pointing to rising uncertainty over the overall economic conditions that determine airfreight demand. Its strategy to foster growth is built on four pillars. The first of these is to target routes to destinations in the Middle East and Asia that can generate steady volumes while simultaneously developing nearby niche markets in China, Russia and Japan. A second thrust is to attract global manufacturers and value-added businesses to the airport's FTZ. The airport is also developing incentives to attract companies and cargo carriers to its doorstep, while the fourth strand targets the ability to attract high-growth types of traffic through facilities geared to handle perishables and express cargo and the development of a new, customer-focused cargo terminal.


While overall growth has been in the low single-digit range in recent years, Incheon has clocked up double-digit increases in express cargo (much of this e-commerce) and perishables. The latter category shows 73% growth between 2012 and 2015, while express traffic climbed 49.9% between 2011 and 2015.


To boost perishables volumes, Incheon Airport has signed an MoU with agencies related to fresh agricultural goods and national carrier Korean Air, aiming to simplify the supply chain and lower costs. "We are reviewing a plan to build a perishables centre in the free trade zone," adds Kang Minyang, Senior Manager, Cargo Marketing Team.


To facilitate and boost e-commerce flows, the airport is looking to build an e-commerce distribution centre for north-east Asia in the FTZ in cooperation with logistics firms. "We expect this centre will attract more transit cargo to Incheon," Kang comments.


The first two phases of the logistics park in the FTZ are on course to be full by the end of 2016, so a third phase is now in the planning stage. This will cover some 320,000m2 and is slated to open in 2019.


 Freighters continue to play a significant role at Incheon, but their share of the market has been slipping continuously in recent years. From 2013 to June 2016, the share of belly freight has risen from 34.4 to 37.6%. The airport is responding to this trend with efforts to beef up its transit facilities for belly freight near the passenger terminal, mindful of the shift in commodities. In response to the rise in perishables arriving in bellyholds, the transit facilities will have constant temperature and humidity, Kang reveals.


Shanghai – PACTL


Pudong Air Cargo Terminal Ltd (PACTL) does not do things by half. When its gleaming new cool centre at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport officially opened its doors in April, it had already obtained CEIV pharma certification.


The 3,500m2 facility, which can handle 100,000 tonnes a year, is equipped with freezers for temperatures between 8 and -18°C, coolers (2 to 25°C) and an ambient climate zone (15 to 25°C) as well as reefer dollies and thermo blankets for seamless transits to and from apron stands. It also has an automated temperature measure alarm system. It is the first facility in China that carries a CEIV badge. >>

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