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Air cargo volume soars again

A worker loads freight onto an airplane. JACK GUEZ/AFP
A worker loads freight onto an airplane. Jack Guez/AFP

Air cargo volume soars again

For the second straight year Cambodia has proven to be one of the world’s most dynamic markets for air freight shipments, with growth in cargo volume exceeding both global and regional averages.

The volume of air freight shipments to and from Cambodia grew by 25 percent last year to 47,580 tonnes, according to Khek Norinda, communications director for Cambodia Airports, the company that operates the Kingdom’s three international airports. He attributed the growth to both higher local demand for air cargo shipments, and increased availability of services as more cargo airlines expand into the Cambodian market.

“It’s supply-demand dynamics,” he said yesterday. “The increase in air freight has been driven by growing demand, which in turn has provided market opportunities for cargo carriers.”

Previously, Cathay Pacific Cargo was the only airline providing regular air freight service to and from Cambodia. But in the last year, at least seven international carriers have added service.

Turkish Airlines and K-Mile Air commenced regular air freight service early last year, while Emirates Sky Cargo, Air Bridge Cargo, Raya Airways, Qatar Airways and Thai Express Air added charter flights in 2016. Meanwhile, Chinese-backed cargo airline Phnom Penh Air Cargo hopes to start up operations later this year with service between the Cambodian capital and southern China.

Total tonnage on international cargo flights to and from Phnom Penh grew by 25.5 percent last year, while tonnage to and from Siem Reap, which handled just small fraction of the overall volume, rose 14.6 percent, according to Cambodia Airports. Top cargoes included garments, footwear and electronics.

“As there have been more flights and better services, air cargo has extended its market share,” Norinda said, forecasting a further 15 percent growth this year.

Data released last month by the International Air Transport Association showed global freight volume, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs), grew by 3.8 percent last year, compared to 2015. Asia-Pacific carriers reported 2.1 percent growth in freight demand last year, while capacity in the region increased by 3.6 percent.

Buthay Outdom, cargo manager for Turkish Airlines in Cambodia, said a major European garments buyer was driving much of the airline’s local demand. He said Turkish Airlines, which operates an Airbus 330 on cargo flights between Phnom Penh and Istanbul, has capacity to transport up to 800 tonnes of freight per month about a quarter of the estimated local demand.

“Air freight is popular in the market because cargo is delivered at a reasonable cost and with zero risk, with the short transit time ensuring the quality of [perishable] goods,” he said.

The strong growth in air freight shipments has been accompanied by a similar surge in sea freight orders resulting from the continued growth of Cambodia’s industrial and agricultural sectors, noted Nhiev Kol, general manager of freight forwarder CMA CGM Cambodia.

“The growth of freight traffic is not limited to air freight, but also maritime cargo shipments as well,” he said. “However, air freight will take a slice of the cargo market as long as it provides an option for suppliers to fill urgent orders.”

He added that while air shipments can deliver cargo to distant markets in a matter of hours, maritime freight shipments can take up to four weeks to deliver, though at a cheaper cost.

Total 2016 cargo volume for Cambodian airports has been corrected in this updated version.

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