Fueled by cargo
Last year’s decline, however, was due mostly to the general malaise in the global economy. That has carried over a bit to this year, with Incheon turning in a first-half decline in tonnage of 5.3 percent, year-over-year. More specifically, these numbers reflect a delay in the European and U.S. economic recoveries, the spokesman says. Carriers are still adding flights to Incheon, however. Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Evergreen International Airlines all introduced new freighter services to the airport in the first half of 2012. More recently, Emirates restarted its freighter routing into the airport.
“This year’s decrease of cargo in Asian airports and carriers was caused by high oil prices, the high unemployment rate, and the shrinking of consumer confidence in the European and American market,” the spokesman says. “Those factors are not expected to be resolved within a short time period.“
While a majority of the Middle Eastern and African airports in the rankings achieved solid growth when compared to 2010’s tonnage numbers, African airports all showed impressive jumps, year-over-year. Jomo Kinyatta International Airport in Nairobi experienced the single biggest increase out of all the airports on ACI’s list, with a 25.4-percent increase when compared to last year. Though at 288, 291 tonnes in 2011, the airport still process a far cry from that of the regional leader, Dubai, which saw more than 2.2 million tonnes pass through last year.
According to William Simbah, commercial manager, cargo, at the Kenya Airports Authority, last year exceeded the airport’s average annual volume growth rate. He attributes this increase to improved infrastructure, both at the airport and in the surrounding country; expanded cold room facilities in new, modern sheds; and a larger cargo apron. Carriers including Turkish Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Air Arabia also increased their flight schedules to Nairobi recently.
Air Cargo Germany upped its charters to the city, and British Airways recently came back to the airport after a long absence. Transshipment is also important at the airport. “Nairobi has developed as a major transit hub linking most of the African states,” he says. This enhanced cargo importance has been spreading throughout the region. So far this year, Simbah has also seen increased joint ventures among airports and foreign investors.
“Dar-es-Salaam is just about to open a new cargo terminal; Addis Ababa has built a new expanded airport, and so has Kigali. Entebbe has improved its existing facilities and is now feeding South Sudan and the Eastern Congo,” he says. “Kenya is developing new cargo facilities at the new Kisumu International Airport to capture the cargo potential in the Great Lakes Region and Central Africa.”
But these expansions can’t achieve their full potential in Africa without first fixing a few challenges common to the country’s air system. Simbah points to poor infrastructure as a hindrance to moving cargo inside the country. This is a barrier to trade that the government needs to address, he says.
The government could also help out with the introduction of regional trade agreements; currently those in the African cargo supply chain have had to deal with “unharmonized Customs tariffs,” Simbah says. More specifically to Nairobi’s airport, an imbalance exists between imports and exports, which has muddied airfreight rates. The list of potential difficulties goes on and on, he explains. “Upcoming regional airport developments and improvements in existing airport facilities are likely to bring regional competition, which is healthy, but will bring new challenges,” Simbah says. “Risks associated with security and terrorism are a major factor impinging on cargo growth due to costs related to mitigation measures.”