HK-Zhuhai-Macau bridge could boost airfreight

City will compete over cargo with Hong Kong airport after 2016, says logistics executive

Macau International Airport could be more competitive against its regional airfreight rivals after the completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, suggests a logistics executive.
“It is now not so convenient to use ship freighters” – running at lower frequency than land transportation – to carry goods in the region, said Mike Lam In Wai, a member of the government-sponsored Committee for the Development of the Logistics Industry.
“The Macau airport has the conditions to compete with the Hong Kong airport” as long as the supporting facilities of the bridge are well planned, Mr Lam told Business Daily on the sidelines of a Guangdong-Macau logistics meeting yesterday.
The airport here charges 1.15 patacas (US$0.14) a kilogramme to handle cargo; lower than HK$1.71 (US$0.22) per kilogramme in Hong Kong, said Mr Lam, general manager of TransAsia Airways Macau.
“It is also easier to get slot times for landings here with lower costs,” he said.
“If Macau can attract a part of Hong Kong airport’s freight [business] here, the [air freight] volume will increase by several times,” he added.
Official data show air cargo volume decreased by 7.4 percent year-on-year to just over 8,200 tonnes in the first four months of this year.
In the first five months Hong Kong International Airport handled more than 1.6 million tonnes.
The city’s cargo volume has been plunging since the launch of direct flights between Taiwan and mainland China in 2008.
Mr Lam believes there is not much that could be done to boost the freight business before the completion of the bridge, slated for end-2016.
“So I think we should focus on long-term measures like the establishment of the logistics facility on the artificial island of the bridge and its supporting facilities,” he said.
That’s a reference to a Macau government plan to set up such a facility at the bridge landing point in the city.
There could also be better coordination between the airport and customs, the executive added.

Long-haul flights

“We hope the government can let the industry co-invest in the facilities on the artificial island or offer some benefits so that the industry can maintain positive prospects,” said the expert.
He said “it is not easy” for logistics companies to keep running amid surging costs and lack of facilities.
Cui Guang, director of logistics and general aviation development at Macau International Airport Co Ltd, said in the meeting the industry here faces challenges, as there are no long-haul direct flights.
The airport company proposed in a press statement last month the government should set up a fund to subsidise long-haul flights.
But Mr Lam thinks it was “not realistic to launch some cross-continental flights in these one or two years,” before the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is ready.
“If the government can support one route, can it support a second? If there are only a few routes here, will this be really helpful to Macau?” he asked.
Mr Lam also suggested a connection between the airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, either by bridge or an undersea tunnel.
This could minimise clearance procedures for airfreight originated from mainland China or Hong Kong, he added.
The Board of Airline Representatives in Macau yesterday signed a cooperation agreement with the administration of Guangzhou’s Nansha district.
Mr Lam, the board’s secretary-general, said the deal would offer direct land transportation to carry goods from and to the district via Macau’s airport.
The airlines will receive around 75 percent of the handling fees on goods to and from Nansha, he said.