July 2017: China engine 'sputtering' - additional product data soon

August 31, 2017

The stories about recent developments in air cargo run the risk of becoming somewhat monotonous: July was again a month with double digit year-over-year (YoY) growth. As Sonny Bono wrote 50 years ago in his famous, yet rather repetitive song: "the beat goes on, yes, the beat goes on". It is not too difficult to imagine that quite a lot of people in our industry do not mind the monotony at all, after a number of years in the doldrums.

Underneath the continuing worldwide trend, however, we noticed a movement worthy of mention. But first the overall picture for July.

Overall YoY volume growth was 11.8% worldwide, caused by above average growth from the origins Europe (14.2%), MESA (13.5%) and Asia Pacific (13%), and below average figures for other regions. The southern hemisphere origins of South America and Africa did rather poorly (3.6% resp. 2.6% growth only). MESA (Middle East & South Asia) and Asia Pacific were the fastest growing destination areas (14.9% resp. 13.3% increase). General cargo continued to increase faster (+12.6%) than the other product categories (+9%), with the exception of pharmaceuticals (+17.6%).

In terms of yields, July saw a considerable worldwide YoY-yield increase, +7.8% in USD. The Asia Pacific region contributed heavily to this impressive figure by scoring an even more impressive 13.2% USD-yield increase for business originating in the area. Month-over-month (MoM), however, worldwide yields did not increase: measured in USD they remained stable, in EUR they lost 2,3%. Yield-wise, North America was a good destination to send goods to: whilst incoming volume remained the same as in June, USD-yields for business to the region were slightly better MoM, but increased by 15.6% YoY.

The surprising July-developments were related to China. For the first time this year, the world's air cargo engine sputtered a bit (relatively speaking, that is). The origin China saw double-digit growth for every month (averaging 19%), but not for July (8%). It grew faster than the world market every month, but not in July. Air cargo needed the compensation of high growth from places like Hong Kong, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the Netherlands, to achieve its July-growth of 11.8% YoY. By the way, incoming traffic in China continues to boom (+21% YoY).

The China situation is also reflected in our DTK measure for July. When the %-growth in DTK's (Direct Ton Kilometers) surpasses the %-growth in volume, this means an increase in the average distance between origin and destination of shipments. In the first half of the year, DTK-growth indeed easily outpaced volume growth, but hardly so in July (DTK +11.9% vs. volume +11.8%). Given the mostly long-distance character of air cargo ex-China, the country's relative weakness contributed to this deviation from the trend.  

Expansion of available product information

With the worldwide inputs of well over 70 airlines in its database, WorldACD is now in a position to launch a more detailed version of its product data service in September. This will be reflected in our future reporting on specific air cargo product categories. Let us have a preliminary look at some insights on carrier groups & their shares in specific air cargo products (such as perishables, pharmaceuticals, electronics, dangerous goods, etc.). We compared the year-to-date with the same period in 2016.

From Africa, the African carriers increased their share in specific products, to the detriment of carriers from Europe and MESA (Middle East & South Asia). The Europeans compensated by gaining share ex Asia Pacific, a market in which the home carriers lost some ground. The latter was also true for the origin Europe, where European carriers lost, but MESA carriers gained considerable market share. The MESA carriers look particularly strong in their own region, continuing to control the majority of specific product transport originating in their area. Last but not least, carriers from the Americas increased their share in specific products from their region. Here it is noteworthy that carriers from the Americas have a much higher overall share from Latin America than from North America.