Air Freight News
Below are links to stories relating to air freight
China starts rail cargo link from Shanghai to London (Barking) – cheaper than air freight, faster than sea
China has launched its first freight train to London, travelling from Yiwu West Railway Station in Zhejiang Province, Eastern China (near Shanghai) to Barking. The trip will take around 18 days to travel over 7,400 miles (about 6,200 miles, as the crow flies). The route runs through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, on the way to London. The UK is the eighth country to be added to the China-Europe service, and London is the 15th city. There are hopes that it will strengthen China- UK ties. The railway is a major strategic development to assist Xi Jinping's multi-billion dollar 'One Belt, One Road' strategy. The plan is to create a trade network connecting Asia with Africa and Europe along old Silk Road trading routes. There are currently 39 routes linking 16 Chinese cities to 12 European cities. The train to London carried a cargo of clothes, bags and other household items. In October a train arrived in Hamburg from China after a 13 day trip. Its 45 containers carried consumer goods, furniture, clothes, lamps and electronics, which were then transported to various European cities. The trains returning to China have carried items such as German meat products, Russian woods and French wines. Transporting goods by rail is a much cheaper and lower carbon method than air freight via Heathrow, and faster than sea cargo.
Heathrow air cargo includes “80 million animals per year” – and largest import is fresh beans
In a long and breathlessly excited and impressed account, a writer for the Daily Mail records his trip to Heathrow cargo warehouses. There are some interesting insights. He says Heathrow handles 80 million animals per year, including "280,000 reptiles, 28 million fish, 16,000 cats and dogs, 2,000 birds and 200 horses every year." ... and "including bears, lions, penguins, elephants and tigers." (There may be good reasons to question the environmental sustainability or morality of shipping non-domestic animals in this manner ...) Some of the animals in the Animal Health Centre in Feltham have been seized from smugglers, such as number of African pygmy hedgehogs. Apart from the animals there are vast amounts of flowers and perishable goods. Huge amounts of bell peppers, cucumbers and salmon are shipped to the Far East and the US every day. Some 100 tonnes of salmon, "from countries such as Scotland and Norway" are flown overseas each day. Luxury cars are shipped by air, and ship parts. Drugs are sent when needed urgently. One of the most daft shipments was "ice cubes sent from London for a swanky cocktail party in Korea" ... "The biggest import into the UK are fresh beans, but also berries, asparagus and exotic fruits."
April 2016: Holland-Kaye says “shocking” to see the problems air freight operations are causing neighbours
Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye has described as “shocking” the problems that the airport - and its freight especially - causes the local community, following a bike ride through Colnbrook with Poyle with Parish Council chair Peter Hood in April 2016. He used Heathrow airport’s intranet to tell employees about the “shocking” impact of ancillary operations, and the “haphazard way” in which huge cargo sheds and smaller warehouses have sprung up in the middle of residential neighbourhoods. He said “it was shocking, and there is no one organisation you can hold accountable”. He recognised that villages such as Colnbrook, Bedfont, and Feltham were already being hit with “congestion, pollution and antisocial behaviour” as a result of activities associated with “keeping Britain’s trade flowing”. He added: "So it is up to us to bring together cargo companies, landowners, councils and residents to stop lorries messing up local communities. It won’t be easy, but if we take a lead, we can be a good neighbour to Colnbrook and other villages.” No specific actions have so far been announced yet, however.
IAG Cargo plans a new London premium temperature-controlled freight facility, double the size of the present one
IAG Cargo (which contains 4 airlines) is to build a new £55 million temperature controlled freight facility at Heathrow, to help it grow a “higher yielding” part of its business. IAG Cargo hopes this will be completed in 2018 and that the new building will be twice the size of the current IAG Cargo Premia facility (at about 8,500 square metres). The temperature controlled facility will be for expensive “premier” airfreight, for goods like perishable seafood - making more profit than many other sorts of cargo. IAG Cargo has not been doing well for the past two quarters, with commercial revenue down compared to a year earlier - down by 12% for Q2 2016 and down -1.8% in Q1. Some of the capacity will be for exports, but it is likely that the volume of imports will be larger (though Heathrow and the freight industry never draw attention to this publicly - just talking about exports). IAG Cargo say there is an expansion in demand from China, with the newly affluent middle classes wanting more sea food. They say razor clams and salmon from Scotland and Ireland are profitable exports. Apparently about 400 tonnes of Scottish razor clams were air freighted by IAG to China. [It is questionable how environmentally sustainable it is to grow these sea foods in the UK, to ship almost half way around the world - in biological terms as well as carbon]. IAG Cargo also handles fresh fruit and vegetables that are increasingly air freighted - as imports to the UK. More air freight mean more heavy lorries and vans, powered by diesel, around Heathrow.
Heathrow hoping to woo air freight companies with plans to give air freight more priority
There was a small decline (0.2%) in 2015 in cargo volumes at Heathrow compared with 2014 levels. The tonnage of freight (1.496 million tonnes, more imports than exports) is barely changed from the amount in 2011. Heathrow has tried to sell its 3rd runway plans partly on the grounds that it is vital for UK companies that export things needing air freight. Many non-perishable, not especially high value items are air freighted (books and brochures, raincoats and overcoats). Almost all air freight at Heathrow is belly hold, in passenger planes. DHL is the only freight airline there. Heathrow has plans (nothing started) to try to develop itself as a European cargo hub through the investment of around £180m, including a specialist pharmaceutical storage area — to support airlines to move highly valuable and temperature sensitive medicines. There would be a huge impact on local roads of all the freight vehicles, which would be diesel powered, and the NO2 pollution. IAG has a large freight hub in Madrid, shipping air cargo into Heathrow and Gatwick. Heathrow says it has restricted air freight capacity on some routes, but overall load factors were only about 60-65%. ie. there is plenty of space for more. Air freight companies would like Heathrow to allocate slots for them.
Heathrow produces some unconvincing attempts to persuade that its air pollution from freight will be reduced
Heathrow knows it has real problems worsening local air quality, with vehicles associated with the airport adding a great deal of pollution. The Airports Commission report was particularly weak on NO2 air pollution, and ignored the emissions from Heathrow's air cargo. Heathrow has now put out a short document attempting to convince that it is making serious improvements to local air quality. On air freight, it says it will be getting shippers to share lorry journeys. Heathrow says in 2016 it will: "• Keep pushing for greater consolidation of vehicle loads at Heathrow and aim to provide an online venue for freight operators to buy and sell empty space on their trucks by July. • Establish a sustainable freight partnership with operators by September with the objective of reducing emissions [No clue what that actually means ?] • Develop and publish our plans for building a call-forward cargo facility to reduce congestion, idling, and emissions of vehicles coming to Heathrow by the end of the year." So that does not look like much. But Heathrow is trying to persuade the government soon. The reality is that Heathrow hopes to double its volume of air freight, with a new runway - and that freight is carried in diesel vehicles, and lorries are not producing less air pollution.
Heathrow to work on research into impact of runway on SMEs and their exports (imports?)
Heathrow Airport is to commission a report to look into the impact of a potential 3rd runway on the UK’s SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) community across the country. It will be a consultation by Heathrow itself and a small business support group called Enterprise Nation. The study starts in February, will seek the views of Enterprise Nation’s community of over 65,000 small businesses to gauge how they feel the airport’s development plans will impact them. The aim is for Heathrow to try to prove that its runway will help the UK to export more. (It does not mention imports - which are actually larger by tonnage and by value than exports.) Heathrow says that once completed, the findings will be used to develop an SME growth strategy within Heathrow’s expansion plans, focusing on what can be done to drive SME export growth in line with the Government target of over £1 trillion of UK exports by 2020. John Holland-Kaye made the usual comments including the runway providing "up 40 new trading links and improve domestic connectivity; making it cheaper and more efficient for SMEs to sell their products in fast growing markets around the world,” The findings of the report are due in April. Earlier Heathrow said the value of its air freight in 2014 was £101 billion. But the value of its exports was £48 billion. That is 47.5% of the total – a bit under half. The rest is imports.
Scottish (environmentally damaging) salmon, farmed by non-British company, are main Heathrow air freight export by weight
An article in the Telegraph takes at face value the blurb put out by Heathrow on its air freight exports. As Heathrow and its backers never ever mention imports, people may be led to believe there are only exports and no imports going through Heathrow. The reality is very different. Heathrow's figures show the total tonnage of exports in 2014 was 345,575 tonnes, out of the total of 1,501,906 tonnes. That is 23%. The other 77% by weight was imports. The value of exports via Heathrow in 2014 was £48 billion, out of a total for air freight of £101 billion. So the value of exports was 47.5%. Never mentioned by Heathrow. The Telegraph focuses on the exports of Scottish salmon by Heathrow. It is deeply odd, not to mention highly unsustainable, that Scottish fish are not exported from Scottish airports - and why they are flown to London, for their onward journey. It is also ironic because Scottish farmed salmon not only cause serious problems for the few remaining wild salmon, but also for the waters where the farms are located. And the farms are largely owned by foreign companies, so not British at all. The largest grower is the massive Marine Harvest Scotland, based in Norway. So Norwegian company damages Scottish environment, to ship fish by air to London, and then across the world. And Heathrow wants another runway so it can do more of this sort of thing. Weird world ...
Heathrow never mentions imports, only exports – but imports larger by tonnage and by value than exports
Heathrow is very fond of saying how vital its air freight is to the UK economy. It is also always very keen to stress how important it is for the UK's exports. Strangely, it never mentions imports (which are not so good for the UK economy). A detailed document by the DfT in 2009 set out the figures for UK air freight exports and imports. Newer data is not readily available. The 2007 figures (by HMRC) showed that the tonnage of UK exports by air freight was 414 thousand tonnes. And the tonnage of imports was 1,663 tonnes. That means, in terms of just weight, the imports were 4 times larger. The 2007 figures show that the value of UK exports by air freight was about £31.1 billion. And the value of imports was £51.1 billion. That means the value of the exports was only 61% of the value of the imports. Presuming that the proportions are roughly the same now as in 2007, that implies that much more of the air freight - both by tonnage and by value - is imports than exports. Strange then that in any document put out by Heathrow, or any of its supporters, imports and their value are never mentioned. It was as if they barely existed. This is comparable to the way in which the benefits of inbound tourism are stressed repeatedly - but rarely the greater numbers of outbound Brits taking their holiday cash to spend abroad. Odd, isn't it?
Air cargo tonnage at Heathrow falling recently, and only 1.76% higher in 2014 than in 2010
Heathrow airport is keen to stress that it deals with more air freight than any other UK airport, and imply that without its air cargo exports (ignoring the imports) the economy of the UK would flounder. However, in recent years, the volume of Heathrow air cargo has been pretty much static. There was 1.76% more air cargo (tonnes) in 2014 than in 2010. In September 2010 Heathrow handled 123,680 tonnes, and in September 2015 it handled 119.092 tonnes. In October 2010 it handled 138,301 tonnes and 132,575 tonnes in October 2015. Tonnage has been down compared to 2014 every month since May. Earlier in November, John Holland-Kaye said: “Cargo is essential for UK PLC and Heathrow is its global freight connector, with 26% of all UK goods by value going through the airport." In early November Heathrow announced £180m investment in inprove air cargo facilities and double the volume passing through Heathrow. The aspiration is that faster more efficient cargo movements will encourage airlines to increase freight capacity, boosting the UK’s global export competitiveness. And imports ?? Holland-Kays says this will "support British businesses to keep the economy moving, connecting exporters to the world and helping the government reach its £1 trillion export target by 2020.” Air cargo has been declining at Frankfurt too.