Air Transport World

Airfrieght navigates choppy waters.(FORECAST 2008)

Global air cargo traffic growth rates have been disappointingly below average for the past three years, holding at 4%-5% for each of the last two years following growth of just 2% in 2005. That falls short of the 6.1% annual average growth over the long term projected by Boeing, Airbus and other observers, and well below the overall global cargo growth rate of 10% for all forms of transport.

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Some air cargo operators fear that a portion of the cargo they were transporting earlier in the decade has gone out to sea. IATA DG and CEO Giovanni Bisignani tells ATW that shippers increasingly are moving cargo from airlines to ocean carriers. He blames cumbersome airfreight customs clearance regulations and credits a fastimproving ocean shipping industry. "We're losing market share in the big picture," he says. "It takes one day to fly cargo from one country to another but five days on average to clear it through customs. . .The reason [for the modal shift] is faster vessels, more effective boats. We have 10% growth in global cargo and [air] increases 5%, so there's a 5% gap we are unable to close."

Analysts say there is no way to quantify how much cargo is moving between modes. "There's anecdotal evidence that there is some shift in traffic from air to ocean, but it's difficult to measure," Air Cargo Management Group Project Director Robert Dahl says.

SJ Consulting President Satish Jindel adds that "there is some truth" to the modal shift, pointing to "ocean guaranteed service" being offered by some forwarders that gives shippers confidence time-sensitive cargo will arrive on time via boats. …

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