© Ivan Soima

Air exports from Hong Kong will see a boost, following a decision by the government to reverse a ban on the transhipment of e-cigarettes and vapes.

Forwarders claim the banned cargo amounts to about 330,000 tons a year – the equivalent of some 10% of Hong Kong’s annual export volumes by air, according to the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics (HAFFA).

The value of the re-export cargo affected by the ban was estimated to exceed CNY120bn ($17.33bn).

While some transhipment by air had continued to be permitted, from April last year, vapes entering Hong Kong by land or sea, for onward transport by air, were banned. However, with the bulk of these products made in neighbouring Dongguan, exporters were keen to ship them via land to Hong Kong International Airport.

Once the proposal is passed, the goods will be able to enter Hong Kong through a secured channel on dedicated barges and be delivered straight to the airport.

“The scheme is only to facilitate direct transhipment through Hong Kong and the goods will not be available for domestic consumption. The proposal is in response to the demand of the Hong Kong air freight industry”, said Willy Lin, chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers Council.

“We hope we could get back some flights lost to competitor airports due to stoppage of shipments of e-cigarettes and related substances through Hong Kong”.

HAFFA said last year that the ban was “a huge blow” and had “stifled” the freight business. Chairman Gary Lau added: “The [ban] has led to a serious decline in Hong Kong’s overall air export volume, causing the industry, airlines, cargo terminals and Hong Kong International Airport to lose hundreds of thousands of tons of re-exports every year.”

In November, deputy secretary for transport and logistics Pamela Lam said: ““Our transhipment of air cargo dropped from May to October this year by about 18%, compared with the same period last year. If this trend continues, Hong Kong’s status as an international logistics hub will be seriously undermined. So while we want to ensure the ban on importation of alternative smoking products, we would like to keep our status as an international logistics hub.”

Mr Lin said this morning: “The Hong Kong economy is on course for recovery, and the scheme would contribute positively to rebound of air freight tonnage.”

People are unable to buy e-cigarette and vape products in Hong Kong, but may use them.

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