Leading broker ACS reports threefold rise this year, highlighting sea freight supply chain issues, a resurgence in personal protective equipment, and post-Brexit uncertainty. Leading air charter broker Air Charter Service (ACS) recorded spectacular growth in its cargo activity in January and the trend has continued into the current month, with a threefold rise this year driven by sea freight supply chain issues, a resurgence in personal protective equipment, and post-Brexit uncertainty.
Group cargo director Dan Morgan-Evans told Lloyd’s Loading List in an interview: “Ocean freight supply chain issues – in particular, a box shortage in Asia and port congestion – a resurgence in volumes of Covid-19-related personal protective equipment (PPE) from China to Europe, and the US and post-Brexit-related uncertainty, notably the risk of delays due to customs clearance issues, are all contributing to high demand for aircraft charter.
“Overall, we saw growth of around 200% in terms of cargo flight volumes last month compared to last year. February has seen a similar pattern to January, with no real let up – if anything, there’s been a slight increase.”
The air cargo charter market saw high demand out of China and Asia throughout 2020, which can be traced back to the start of the pandemic, which triggered commercial flights operating at very low frequency, Evans noted.
“This has been sustained into 2021, and China-EU routes in particular have been strong in recent weeks,” he highlighted. “Having two Chinese mainland offices, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore, means we are very well placed to serve this market.”
As to the growth ACS has seen in EU-UK air cargo charter flights specifically, following the end of the Brexit transition period at the turn of the year and the introduction of the new trading regime, with border controls, Evans remarked: “The risk of delays in getting goods across the Channel as a result of new customs clearance procedures has inevitably led to an increase in enquiries for air charters ; and while there’s been a steady flow (of flights), the truth is Brexit-related ‘ air freight has been generally up and down.”
Given the prospect of long-term capacity constriction due to the collapse of passenger air travel and bellyhold cargo space, Evans agreed that charter will become a more permanent or mainstream part of the service offerings of major forwarders – at least in the foreseeable future.
“I would certainly say this is true for 2021,” he noted. “Beyond that, it is hard to tell; but it would appear unlikely belly freight will get back to pre-Covid levels for some time to come –and for that reason, customers are likely to seek the security of air cargo charters rather than depend on the unpredictable outlook for pax services.”
He concluded: “Air cargo capacity continues to be stretched globally and we can offer customers value-added charter solutions through a mix of maindeck and pax freighters.”