Penang’s freight forwarders are forecasting a 15 per cent growth in air cargo tonnage at Penang International Airport (PEN) in 2018 over last year’s figures, to a total of 144,720 tonnes.
This comprises a 15 per cent growth in imports to 75,000 tonnes and a 6.0 per cent growth exports, said the Penang Freight Forwarders Association (PFFA) according to a report in Malaysia’s StarBiz.
Ali Ahmad, PFFA secretary-general said that in 2017, air freight imports grew by 25 per cent while exports grew 5.3 per cent, over 2016 to 65,305 and 65,774 tonnes, respectively.
“About 70 per cent of the cargo handled last year comprised electronic and semiconductor components and parts,” Ali said.
“As the semiconductor and electronic industries are projected to show further improvement in 2018, we can also expect the tonnage handled to rise correspondingly,” he said.
The new Qatar Airways direct flights between Doha and Penang is expected to boost cargo handled at Penang International Airport. “The thrice-weekly direct flights will increase the cargo handled at the Penang International Airport by 150 tonnes per month,” he added.
Ali urged the federal and state governments to look into making the establishment of an integrated cargo complex at the Penang International Airport a reality. Currently the airport has two cargo terminals, but “an integrated cargo complex would cut operation costs of freight forwarders and shorten clearance time,” Ali said.
Despite a 10 per cent increase in fuel surcharges – to MYR 1.10 per kg – by carriers operating out of Malaysia, the current freight rate to the US has been maintained at around MYR 10 (USD 2.56) to MYR 15 per kg, depending on the destination in the US and the season. Rates to Europe are between MYR 8.0 and MYR 12 per kg, similarly depending on destination and season.
“During peak periods, however, the freight charges could rise by about 15% to the US and Europe,” he added.
Much of the Penang-generated cargo – dominated by semiconductor product manufacturers – is trucked to Kuala Lumpur to tap the connectivity offered by Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
The push for Penang to develop proper cargo handling facilities has been ongoing for a number of years, but little progress has been made due to what is widely seen as political intransigence in putting money into PEN.
The airport is the second largest after KLIA in terms of air cargo movements with freight forwarders and carriers pushing for a number of years for proper cargo facilities and more recently for a second runway.