Capacity doubles on China to Bournemouth all-cargo route

Traders will see increased cargo capacity between the UK and China as demand, especially for e-commerce, sparks growth opportunities at secondary airports like Bournemouth.

On Wednesday, Bournemouth airport’s freight division Cargo First announced doubling capacity to Chengdu in China from three to six weekly services.

The all-cargo uplift on European Cargo’s A340 freighters will now boost annual capacity to more than 20,000 tonnes per year on the route. Each aircraft has a 76-tonne capacity. The service is operated in partnership with Shenzhen Sharing Express Logistic-Tech Ltd (SSELT).

Bournemouth Airport’s managing director Steve Gill said the increase was a huge vote of confidence in Bournemouth as an e-commerce gateway to the UK, with the airport’s location, lack of slot constraints, flexibility and speed, and European Cargo’s growing fleet capacity, “a winning combination”.

Bournemouth’s masterplan is to create a gateway for e-commerce goods from Chengdu to the UK. The Chinese city is hugely important as an economic and commercial centre with a diverse economy characterised by its financial, machinery, automobile, medicine, food, and information technology industries, and a reciprocal trade mission between Sichuan Province and Bournemouth took place in August.

Meanwhile, another Chinese operator has been rumoured to start freighter operations to Birmingham in the UK.

Following an enquiry by The Loadstar today, a spokesperson for BHX said: “Air China Cargo is planning to run Beijing-Guangzhou-Birmingham services on a B777-F aircraft three times a week. We expect to see these in play this side of Christmas.”

Capacity has gradually returned between the UK and China, especially for belly freight as the pandemic waned and China eased its travel restrictions. Virgin Atlantic resumed daily services between London Heathrow and Shanghai in May for passenger and cargo operations.

Since April, IAG Cargo has resumed offering capacity for popular shipments like IT equipment, e-commerce and garments between London Heathrow and Beijing and Shanghai. In June, services resumed between Heathrow and Beijing Daxing Airport.

As the peak season approaches, industry analysts are keeping a close eye on the spot rates.  Xeneta’s air freight update for September 2023 suggests air cargo spot rates from China to Europe have stabilised over the summer period.

For general cargo, the spot rate stood at $2.62 per kg in the last week of August and was 21% above its pre-pandemic level.

As rates stabilise, Xeneta data reveals that the share of air cargo volumes allocated to the spot market has fallen from 59% in early May to 48% by the end of August, with freight forwarders reducing their volume purchases in the speculative spot market.

China remains a key trading partner to the UK and the latest data reveals an upward trend. Total trade in goods and services (exports and imports) between the UK and China was £107.5bn in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023, an increase of 11.3%.

China was the UK’s 4th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023 accounting for 6.1% of total UK trade according to the UK Department for Business and Trade.

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