Worth its weight in gold

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By SO­PHIE HE in Hong Kong so­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Founded in 1971, Hong Kong Air Cargo Ter­mi­nals Ltd (Hactl) started ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tion in 1976 to meet de­mand for a con­sol­i­dated air cargo ser­vice in Hong Kong’s man­u­fac­tur­ing econ­omy.

Over the next two decades, Hactl built two air cargo ter­mi­nals at Kai Tak In­ter­na­tional Air­port to cater for the rapid growth of air cargo within the re­gion. By 1997, the an­nual through­put reached 1.7 mil­lion tons.

In 1998, Hactl moved to Su­perTer­mi­nal 1 at Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Chek Lap Kok. Rep­re­sent­ing an in­vest­ment of $1 bil­lion sur­veil­lance au­dit and ac­cred­i­ta­tion cov­ers the pro­vi­sions of han­dling, lo­gis­tics and stor­age ser­vices for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

He added that the fo­cus of the in­dus­try is al­ways shift­ing and one of the big things at the mo­ment is the rapidly de­vel­op­ing sec­tor of e-com­merce, so Hactl is ac­tively look­ing at op­por­tu­ni­ties to han­dle more and more e-com­merce prod­ucts.

Prod­ucts gen­er­ated from e-com­merce are dif­fer­ent from the gen­eral air cargo, they come in as a lot of small pack­ages, and Hactl also needs to mod­ify its sys­tem to make sure it can han­dle this ef­fi­ciently.

As con­sumers be­come wealth­ier, fly­ing in per­ish­ables is also a no­tice­able trend in Hong Kong, as more and more food is or­dered in by air, ac­cord­ing to White­head.

“The de­mand for fresh sea food, live lob­sters, live salmon and fresh veg­eta­bles is ris­ing. We have to con­stantly main­tain and up­grade our in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy (IT) sys­tem, which is why we have 120 IT and ca­pa­ble of han­dling 3.5 mil­lion tons of cargo per year, Su­perTer­mi­nal 1 was de­signed and built to do one thing: man­age cargo in the smartest pos­si­ble way.

In May 2010, Swire Pa­cific Ltd and its avi­a­tion as­so­ciate Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways Ltd an­nounced an agree­ment to sell their en­tire in­ter­ests, 19.998 per­cent and 10 per­cent re­spec­tively, in Hactl and Hactl In­vest­ment Hold­ings Ltd (HIHL).

The in­ter­ests in Hactl and HIHL were pur­chased by ex­ist­ing share­hold­ers, namely Jar­dine Mathe­son & Co Ltd, The Wharf (Hold­ings) Ltd, Mos­gen Ltd (a wholly owned sub­sidiary of Hutchi­son Wham­poa Ltd), Hutchi­son Port Hold­ings Ltd and China Na­tional spe­cial­ists in the com­pany.” Hactl is ca­pa­ble of han­dling all kinds of cargo, whether dan­ger­ous goods or live an­i­mals or per­ish­ables, he as­serted.

The past few months have seen Hactl launch sev­eral new prod­ucts, one of which is a smart phone ap­pli­ca­tion for ef­fi­cient goods move­ment, White­head said. Truck driv­ers who need to pick up cargo when they ar­rive at the air­port can down­load the app, where they can be told which dock they need to go to.

As for get­ting the bet­ter of lo­cal com­peti­tors, White­head be­lieves Hactl has sev­eral ad­van­tages, not least of which is its huge body of ex­pe­ri­ence in the air cargo in­dus­try.

“We have been do­ing this for a very long time, next year will be our 40th an­niver­sary,” he pointed out.

The com­pany also has a pol­icy of em­ploy­ing all its staff di­rectly, not through any hu­man re­sources firm or third-party con­trac­tors, un­like what its com­peti­tors tend to do, ac­cord­ing to White­head.

“We al­ways be­lieve that is the cor­rect thing to do. All of our 2,500 work­ers were em­ployed by Avi­a­tion Corp (Group) Ltd. Cur­rently, Jar­dine Mathe­son is Hactl’s largest share­holder, with a stake of 41.67 per­cent, while Hutchi­son Port Hold­ings and The Wharf (Hold­ings) each holds 20.83 per­cent, and the re­main­ing 16.67 per­cent be­longs to the China Na­tional Avi­a­tion Corp.

For 2014, Hactl’s to­tal ton­nage han­dled was up 8.7 per­cent. Ex­ports in­creased by 6.7 per­cent, im­ports were up 10.3 per­cent while trans­ship­ments were up 28.6 per­cent and mail/ex­press traf­fic grew 3.1 per­cent.

Hactl Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Mark White­head said: “This is a very pleas­ing re­sult, with good in­creases in all ar­eas of our busi­ness.

“Trans­ship­ments once again showed ex­cep­tional growth, fu­elled both by in­creased road feeder ac­tiv­ity by our sub­sidiary Hacis (Hong Kong Air Cargo In­dus­try Ser­vices Ltd), and the con­tin­u­ing un­der­ly­ing de­vel­op­ment of us di­rectly, which means that they can join our com­pany as a young man and have a ca­reer path right through.” White­head be­lieves this is also a com­pet­i­tive edge for Hactl.

White­head noted that the air cargo in­dus­try in Hong Kong has a sig­nif­i­cant edge over ri­vals in Shen­zhen or Guangzhou, thanks to the SAR’s great con­nec­tiv­ity.

“Our ad­van­tage is that we have more num­bers of flights in and out the ter­mi­nal, which is cru­cial in the busi­ness,” said White­head.

“For ex­am­ple if you have some cargo you want to fly to Los An­ge­les, for what­ever rea­son you miss a flight, (in Hong Kong) you will still have another five to go, it is all about con­nec­tiv­ity and Hong Kong is the best for that.”

This is also why the city needs a third run­way, be­cause Hong Kong needs to have the abil­ity to han­dle the ma­jor­ity of world air­lines, he said.

White­head said that he came to Hong Kong in 1983 as a lawyer, then joined Jar­dine Mathe­son & Co Ltd

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