Cambodia was one of the few bright spots for the air cargo industry last year with a modest increase in year-on-year air freight shipments as other regions experienced weak growth due to the cooling global economy.
The volume of air freight shipments to and from Cambodia increased 14 per cent in 2015 to 38,065 tonnes, according to Khek Norinda, communications and PR director of Cambodia Airports, the company that manages the Kingdom’s three international airports. He attributed the growth to strong demand for Cambodian garments in overseas markets and new entrants in the local air freight market.
“Our cargo traffic is closely linked with the garment industry, so basically we grow when it does well,” Norinda said. “Also, for over a year now, Cathay Pacific Cargo has been operating flights specifically dedicated to cargo.”
The growth in air freight shipments arriving at Cambodian airports was led by a surge in traffic from China, with volume increasing 34 per cent year-on-year in 2015. Strong export growth to the US, Japan and China drove increases in outbound cargo shipments.
Air cargo growth is expected to slow next year, Norinda said, citing concerns about the global economy.
“We have forecasted a growth of 3 per cent to 4.5 per cent, whose assumption is mainly based on a volatile global economy,” he said.
While Cambodia experienced double-digit growth in air freight traffic last year, most countries reported slowing demand. Total freight tonne kilometres (FTKs), the benchmark measure of freight traffic, increased just 2.6 per cent during the first 11 months of 2015, compared to a year earlier, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a press release this month.
Tony Tyler, IATA’s director-general and CEO, said recent data suggests the global decline in cargo demand “appears to be bottoming out,” and export orders are looking better in parts of the Asia-Pacific region. However, he warned of considerable uncertainty over the health of the global economy, upon which air cargo depends.
Kim Chanmean, air freight supervisor for Narita Logistica and Services, said his company saw air cargo shipments grow last year on the back of the Kingdom’s vibrant garment sector, with most of his clients’ shipments destined for European markets.
Total garment exports from Cambodia increased 10.1 per cent during the first 10 months of 2015, compared to a year earlier, a recent International Labour Organisation report noted.
Bun Chandara, air operation supervisor for freight forwarder Transpeed Cargo, also said the bulk of his firm’s air freight shipments last year were for clients in the garment sector.
“Most exports are garment products and most imports are accessories for garment production,” he said. “[After manufacturing,] they will send the finished product to anywhere, but mostly to the EU and US because these [markets] provide a quota to Cambodia.”
However, Chandara said his company’s air freight shipments declined slightly last year, which he attributed to the residual impact of garment factory strikes in early 2014 that led to some cancelled orders.