Air cargo volumes indicate worldwide trade slowdown

Air cargo volumes indicate worldwide trade slowdown

WorldACD reports that the enduring downward slide of air cargo volumes continued last month.

The first month of 2019 confirmed the trend we have seen for a number of months now: another volume drop, this time of 2% YoY, coupled with a yield drop (in USD) of 2.5%.

The smaller regions of Africa and Central & South America (C&S Am) again managed a YoY increase in outgoing business (by 3.8% resp. 0.6%), in the case of C&S Am accompanied by a YoY yield increase (in USD) of almost 5%.

All other origin regions were down YoY. For the origins Europe and North America, the drop hovered around 4%, but even more telling was the drop in incoming business in Asia Pacific (-6% in total, -8% from the origin North America, and -9.5% from the origin Europe).

Origin China grew by 5% YoY, but the destination China fell by more than 10%. We observed this trend also in the past two months, but it was more pronounced in January due to the early Chinese New Year (Feb 5 in 2019).

As we see it, the period preceding this day seems to have a small positive effect on outgoing business from Asia Pacific, but a more serious negative effect on incoming business.

The countries doing well in January were Morocco and Egypt in Africa, and Ecuador and Costa Rica in C&S Am. And what to say about the United Kingdom? Whilst all individual countries in Western Europe saw a YoY drop (- 5.5% in total), the UK grew by 5%…. Do we witness a pre-Brexit stocking up of goods made in Britain? Germany fared worst in Europe, with a YoY drop in outgoing air cargo of 8.7% (-14.5% to Asia Pacific).

On the product front, January 2019 was a good month for certain specific cargo categories. Apart from general cargo, valuables and dangerous goods, all categories improved YoY. The big categories of perishables and high tech grew by 6% resp. 4%, pharmaceuticals by 5% and the much smaller group of live animals by 9%.

Trying to find out which (groups of) companies may have best positioned themselves for a good performance in 2019, we looked who did relatively well in the ‘downturn’ of 2018, compared with the bumper year 2017.

In spite of an overall growth between the two years of 2%, most airline groups hardly grew: airlines from Asia Pacific reported 0.7% growth, whilst those from Africa, MESA and C&S Am languished around the no-growth point. Only the airlines from North America (+6.3%) and Europe (+3.8%) beat the worldwide average growth. Remarkably, the Europeans improved their share everywhere, except in Europe itself.

The world’s top-20 forwarders went from a 43.2% to a 43% market share. But within this elite group, differences were noticeable. The 13 forwarders with a European origin grew by 0.5% only, whilst the 4 MESA and North American forwarders did just a bit better (+1.5%). The real winners in 2018 were the Japanese forwarders, growing their business by 7.2%, mainly driven by growth in Asia Pacific and North America. Leading forwarders in perishables, such as Kuehne + Nagel, Panalpina, DB Schenker and Newport, recorded double digit growth (between 13% and 16%) in this category.

Lastly, GSA’s grew their business by 5.2%. The two groups dominating the GSA-field (ECS and WFC), representing around 30% of the total volume sold by GSAs, together grew by 3.7% i.e. less than the GSA-market as a whole. Their individual performances differed quite a bit.

January 2019 at a glance:

  • Total Chargeable Weight: -2.0% year-over-year (YoY); -6.2% month-over-month (MoM).
  • General cargo -5% YoY, special cargo +4.6% YoY.
  • Direct Ton Kilometers (DTK’s): -1.9% YoY. (Given the -2% change in volume, this means that average distance per shipment hardly changed).
  • Yield dropped to USD 1.84 (-2.5% YoY, -8.0% MoM).
  • The cargo load factor dropped by 1.9%-points YoY and by 4%-points MoM.
  • Revenues (USD) from the smallest shipments (0-50 kg) suffered least (-2.1% YoY), those from the largest shipments (>5000 kg) suffered most (-6.4% YoY).

(See www.worldacd.com/yields for more yield developments.)

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