Hong Kong is the world’s largest air cargo air­port, so we feel the im­pact (of any dip in world trade) very quickly. But it is a cycli­cal busi­ness ... you just read the cy­cles and you re­act ac­cord­ingly.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - So­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Hong Kong as Asia’s pre­ferred re­gional hub.”

Bri­tish-born White­head stud­ied law and eco­nom­ics at Not­ting­ham Univer­sity and then worked in Lon­don for five years as a lawyer be­fore mov­ing to Hong Kong in 1983.

He joined Jar­dine Mathe­son Group in 1987 as in-house le­gal coun­sel be­fore mov­ing to gen­eral man­age­ment in 1990 and was ap­pointed Hactl chief ex­ec­u­tive in Septem­ber 2010.

He is mar­ried to a Hong Kong citizen and the pair have two adult chil­dren, both study­ing in the US.

A sail­ing en­thu­si­ast, White­head is the cur­rent Com­modore of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), and has taken part in sev­eral lo­cal sail­ing re­gat­tas and blue wa­ter off­shore re­gat­tas. He is ac­tively in­volved via the RHKYC in the de­vel­op­ment of wa­ter sports in Hong Kong. in 1987.

Af­ter Swire Pa­cific Ltd and af­fil­i­ate Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways Ltd sold their stake in Hactl in 2010, the other ex­ist­ing share­hold­ers, which in­cluded Jar­dine Mathe­son Group, bought up the shares and White­head took over as the chief ex­ec­u­tive.

The air freight in­dus­try is a dy­namic busi­ness, White­head said, and the com­pany has to work very hard to main­tain ser­vice lev­els to keep its cus­tomer base, be­cause it is a vol­umedriven busi­ness. “If the com­pany has vol­ume, ev­ery­thing is okay,” he said.

“I’m ex­tremely proud of my work force,” added White­head.

“They are loyal to Hactl — we’ve got many em­ploy­ees who have been with us since day one and still work­ing, for al­most 40 years.

“They work in very dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, depend­ing on the time of the year, we have a very good work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the man­age­ment and the work force, which is built on re­spect and mu­tual un­der­stand­ing.”

But un­for­tu­nately, young pro­fes­sion­als in Hong Kong do not seem very at­tracted to the air cargo busi­ness, he said, since many choose to leave the com­pany in their first year.

“I think it is be­cause it’s hard work in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions (that drives young peo­ple away), and they have to work on shift ba­sis. The time spent trav­el­ing is also quite long — young peo­ple have other op­tions.”

But he stressed that once peo­ple make it through their first year, they will get used to the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment and tend to work in the com­pany for a very long time.

“We have good ca­reer prospects, good job se­cu­rity. Be­sides, air cargo is a ro­bust grow­ing in­dus­try — if you look at the num­bers com­ing out of man­u­fac­tur­ers like Boe­ing and Air­bus, the or­ders be­ing placed for air­craft are huge, so the in­dus­try has a very pos­i­tive fu­ture.”

And af­ter so many years, he is still pas­sion­ate about the in­dus­try: “If I’m not, I won’t be here. Life is too short to do things you don’t like.”

Con­tact the writer at

PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY

Mark White­head says even af­ter so many years in the in­dus­try, he is still pas­sion­ate about it, or he would not be here, as life is too short to do things one does not like. Mark White­head, CEO Hong Kong Air Cargo Ter­mi­nals Ltd

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