The air freight end-to-end journey. An analysis of the end-to-end journey of air freight through UK international gateways

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1 The air freight end-to-end journey An analysis of the end-to-end journey of air freight through UK international gateways May 2009

2 The Department for Transport has actively considered the needs of blind and partially sighted people in accessing this document. The text will be made available in full on the Department s website in accordance with the W3C s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The text may be freely downloaded and translated by individuals or organisations for conversion into other accessible formats. If you have other needs in this regard please contact the Department. Department for Transport Great Minster House 76 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DR Telephone Website Crown copyright 2009 Copyright in the typographical arrangement rests with the Crown. This publication, excluding logos, may be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium for non-commercial research, private study or for internal circulation within an organisation. This is subject to it being reproduced accurately and not used in a misleading context. The copyright source of the material must be acknowledged and the title of the publication specified. To reproduce maps, contact Ordnance Survey via their web site copyright or write to Customer Service Centre, Ordnance Survey, Romsey Road, Southampton SO16 4GU. For any other use of this material, apply for a Value Added Click-Use Licence at index.htm, or To order further copies contact: DfT Publications Tel: Textphone: ISBN: Printed in Great Britain May 2009.

3 The air freight end-to-end journey An analysis of the end-to-end journey of air freight through UK international gateways May 2009

4 Contents 1. Preface 2 2. Overview of the air freight market 4 3. The air freight end-to-end journey The integrated air freight end-to-end journey, with a focus on East Midlands Airport The air freight forwarding end-to-end journey, with a focus on Heathrow Improvements to the air freight end-to-end journey 51 1

5 1. Preface The UK s international transport networks are a key enabler of trade in both goods and services. International trade gives UK consumers access to a wide variety of goods at competitive prices. For UK firms, international trade gives a global market in which to sell their products as well as access to intermediate inputs such as raw materials and parts. The global economy is experiencing a downturn in However, in the longer term continuing trends towards greater globalisation are expected to encourage businesses to operate on an ever widerreaching scale. The UK needs to adjust to the rapidly changing global environment and to build on its competitive advantages. These trends will present opportunities both for the UK as a whole and for individuals and businesses, but will also bring challenges, such as tackling climate change and increased competition. An increasingly important trend that has been enabled by the expansion of global trade and facilitated by the decline in international transport costs is for economic activity to be globally mobile; meaning that it can be carried out in a number of locations and drives increased demand for international freight transport. This has led to competition for investment between countries on the basis of cost and the quality of factors such as labour, technology and infrastructure, including transport networks. For the UK, increasing global economic integration is likely to reinforce the trends of growth in service sectors, coupled with a smaller domestic manufacturing sector, with the increasing import of goods. The UK is likely to specialise further in knowledge-intensive services and high-tech manufacturing. 1.1 The importance of air freight to UK competitiveness and productivity Air freight enables goods to be shipped between countries quickly and efficiently in a way that cannot be matched by other modes, particularly over longer distances where the time differentials are greatest. This time advantage makes air freight particularly suited to transporting goods which are either very time-sensitive, such as perishable foodstuffs; process critical, such as medicines or machine parts; or very high-value, such as hi-tech manufactures or precious stones. The UK aviation sector is one of the most competitive in the world. Air freight accounts for a significant share of UK cargo in terms of value. Almost 40% of UK trade with non- EU countries by value is transported by air. Heathrow alone accounts for a quarter of the UK s non-eu trade by value (by contrast, Felixstowe, our largest container port, accounts for 12%); while East Midlands Airport is a key hub for express courier services, particularly to destinations within Europe. The air freight sector therefore plays an important role in supporting UK businesses engaged in high value sectors of the economy. In addition, the UK s role as an air cargo hub provides a significant source of employment domestically. The last comprehensive study undertaken on behalf of the Department, estimated GDP contribution in 1996 of around 5 billion. 1 This study also estimated that the UK air freight industry as a whole 1 UK air freight study report, MDS Transmodal, The GDP estimate was made using National Accounts from 1996, inflated to 1998 prices. 2

6 directly employs in the order of 40,000 to 55,000 people, including those self employed, making air freight a key sector in its own right. A more recent study by Oxford Economic Forecasting 2 found that express services alone made a direct GDP contribution of over 900 million in 2004 and that the catalytic impact on the rest of the economy contributes about 1.3 billion to the UK s GDP each year, forecast to increase to 5 billion a year over the next 20 years. The study found that the express industry employed 32,000 people in the UK in 2006 and supported at least 72,000 jobs nationally. 1.2 End-to-end analysis The Department for Transport recognises the importance of efficient and sustainable transport networks in facilitating trade and economic activity and has adopted a network oriented approach to the development and delivery of transport policy. A key step to achieving this is to understand journeys of both freight and passengers from an end-toend perspective. Working with key industry stakeholders, the Department has developed a suite of documents which analyse the endto-end, multi-modal journey of passengers and freight through the UK s key international gateways. The performance of a transport network with multiple organisations and processes is only as good as the weakest link of the chain. With many players involved in the end-to-end journey, there is a greater risk of failures at the interfaces such as intermodal connections, or between different regulatory authorities. In a highly liberalised market environment, the extent to which the Department can directly influence different stages of the journey varies considerably. End-to-end analysis is a valuable tool for understanding where there are pinch points in supply chains and enabling all those involved, both private and public sector, to target improvements which offer the most effective outcomes for the journey as a whole. Endto-end analysis is an important contribution to the Department s evidence base for supporting future policy development, both in terms of quick wins and longer term strategy. The Department has developed a number of end-to-end analyses and case studies and these are available for download via the website. 3 This document examines the movement of air cargo with a focus on two key UK airports, Heathrow and East Midlands Airport, it lays out some of the quantitative and qualitative data collated by the Department and our strategic partners to give a picture of what the end-to-end supply chain journey looks like. The data provides a series of snapshots through the journey, rather than a continuous assessment of an individual consignment s movement. The document also sets out the current and future improvements that the Department and industry partners are promoting, which will improve the performance across these journeys. Alongside supporting economic growth, the Department has four other strategic goals; namely, reducing carbon emissions; improving quality of life; promoting equality of opportunity and contributing to better safety, security and health. Detailed analysis of these other strategic goals is outside of the scope of this study but the Department recognises that these are important areas for further research. The Department would like to extend special thanks to its strategic partners for their cooperation and willingness to share data and information used in this publication. 2 The Economic Impact of Express Carriers for UK plc (published January 2006). 3 Available at: 3

7 2. Overview of the air freight market 2.1 Modes of freight transport The total volume by weight of freight shipped through UK s international gateways amounted to 459 million tonnes in 2007, an increase of 82% since In terms of tonnage, the predominant mode of transport is by sea; with 93% of extra-eu international freight being moved by ship, as shown in Figure 1. Whilst air freight makes up a small proportion by weight (1%) of extra-eu international freight, it accounts for 38% by value, as shown in Figure 2. Data on the value of trade within the EU are not available. 4 Figure 3 shows that the average value-to-weight ratio of cargo shipped by air is nearly 75 times greater than that of goods shipped by sea. Figure 1: Mode share for UK international trade (extra- EU) by weight, 2007 Figure 3: Value to weight ratio of goods for UK international (extra-eu) trade, 2007 Misc 6% Channel Tunnel 0.02% Air 1% Value per kilo ( ) Export Import Total Air Channel Tunnel Miscellaneous Sea Source: Overseas Trade Statistics 2007, HMRC 2.2 Models of air freight total weight = 283 million tonnes Sea 93% There are two models of air freight in the UK and world-wide: Source: Overseas Trade Statistics 2007, HMRC Figure 2: Mode share for UK international trade (extra- EU) by value, 2007 Channel Tunnel 0.2% Misc 8% Air 38% The air freight forwarding model l This is the traditional model adopted by the major scheduled airlines. l The wide-bodied aircraft used on long haul passenger routes have cargo capacity in the hold beneath the passenger cabins; this is known as bellyhold freight. Sea 54.7% total value = 236,358 million Source: Overseas Trade Statistics 2007, HMRC l l Narrow-bodied short haul aircraft do not generally carry air freight due to limited bellyhold capacity. Similarly, the low cost carriers do not carry cargo due to the additional handling and turn-around time required. Most domestic goods and a high proportion of those transported between 4 One of the key principles of the European Union Single Market, since its inception in 1993, is the free movement of goods between Member States. Statistical data is collected by the Intrastat survey, but port and mode of transport are not included. 4

8 l l l the UK and continental European are trucked by road rather than carried by air. This is due to a combination of cost and space limitations on the short haul aircraft. 5 Additionally, airlines may operate dedicated freighter aircraft on key routes where there are high volumes of cargo. There are also a number of all-cargo airlines which only use dedicated freighter aircraft. Airlines may also offer a courier service; courier traffic is handled akin to passenger baggage and is therefore not classified as traditional cargo. The integrated air freight model l This model, carried out by the integrators, has developed over the last 25 years to provide an express or next-day delivery service to customers. l l l l Integrators offer a complete origin to destination service on short-haul routes. Integrators mainly use dedicated freighter aircraft, but also buy capacity on passenger scheduled airlines. Mail is carried in a similar way to integrated air freight, using either dedicated freighters or using capacity on scheduled airlines. Up to 98% of express freight volume is business-to-business traffic International air freight market At a global level, the volume of freight shipped by air has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. Figure 4 shows a steady growth from 1979 to The graph shows that although air freight volumes are forecast to continue to decline over 2009 as a result of the current economic downturn and the contraction of global trade, growth is expected to continue over the long-term. Figure 4: International freight tonnes flown (1979 to 2008 and forecast growth to 2011) International freight tonnes flown IATA survey of industry forecasts Million tonnes Revised IATA forecast (Mar 09) Source: ICAO, IATA March NB. These goods are not covered by CAA Airport Statistics. 6 The Economic Impact of Express Carriers for UK plc (published January 2006). 5

9 The overall increase in the size of the air freight market has been driven by sharply declining air freight rates made possible by the expansion of long haul passenger services which provide significant bellyhold capacity available for cargo. In addition, the liberalisation of world trade and the shift in the composition of world trade towards smaller and lighter shipments has broadened the base of goods that are shipped by air. Figure 5 shows the tenfold decrease in air freight rates between 1954 and Figure 5: Air freight rates (1954 to 2004) 1250 Worldwide Air Revenue per Ton Km 1000 index 2000 = Source: Hummels Commodities Despite the steep decline in rates, air freight still commands a high cost relative to other modes of freight transport, and is therefore generally only used for specific categories of cargo: l High-value (and generally low weight) where the shipping cost, although high, is marginal in proportion to the total cost of the cargo. Examples include pharmaceuticals, works of art and highend electrical equipment. The proportional share of transport costs is very similar for both air and sea freight, at around 5% of the total value of the goods shipped. 7 l l Limited life-cycle for some goods such as perishables like fresh fruit or fish, minimising transit time is essential to ensuring that the goods arrive at market in optimal condition. Air freight offers significant advantages in terms of end-to-end journey time. Process-critical some air freight, such as medicines or spare machinery parts, may have limited intrinsic value but may be essential to enabling business processes to function smoothly. The importance of these commodity types will be understated due to standard value-based statistics which only record the intrinsic value of goods. 7 Globalisation and Transport Costs, David Hummels NBER, Purdue University

10 Figure 6 and Figure 7 below show that activity in the global air freight market is strongly correlated with trends in world trade and is particularly sensitive to trends in sectors that make extensive use of air freight, such as semi conductors and other high-value manufactures. Figure 6: International air freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) flown and world trade (1971 to 2008 and forecast growth to 2010) % change over year World trade in manufactures Air freight tonne km flown Source: ICAO, EIU, IATA March 2009 Figure 7: International air freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) flown and semi-conductor shipments (1999 to 2007) Semi-Conductor Shipments and Air Freight % Growth, Semi-Conductor Shipments Jan 99 Jan 00 Jan 01 Jan 02 Jan 03 Jan 04 Jan 05 Semi-Conductor Shipments International FTKs Jan 06 Jan Source: IATA, Semi Conductor Industry Association 2007 A number of factors help explain the weakened growth in air freight demand since the year These include disruption to air services (particularly on the North Atlantic routes) from 2001 due to the September 11 attacks; increased capacity and frequency of shipping services and differential patterns of aviation fuel prices rising faster than shipping fuel prices. 8 FTKs are the standard unit for measuring freight volume. One FTK is one metric tonne of revenue load carried one kilometre. 7

11 2.5 The UK air freight market Mirroring the trend in the international market, UK air freight traffic grew rapidly from the early 1980s through to the year 2000 but has stabilised over the last 10 years. Figure 8 shows the total freight tonnes flown for domestic and international markets between 1982 and It can be seen that whilst the amount of UK to international air freight has more than tripled in line with global trends, the amount of domestic air freight has only increased by about a third. In total, domestic flights only account for 5% of all UK air freight (107,227 tonnes in 2008) since narrow-bodied aircraft with minimal bellyhold capacity are used for these flights, and road transport around the UK is more cost effective. Figure 8: UK domestic and international freight tonnes flown (1982 to 2008) Thousand tonnes International Domestic Courtesy of East Midlands Airport 8

12 The UK imports (57%) more air freight than it exports (43%) by weight. This adds up to over 1,280,000 tonnes of imports (1,230,000 tonnes excluding domestic air freight) and 960,000 tonnes of exports. The primary routes for air freight in and out of the UK are the transatlantic routes to and from the United States for both imports and exports, and also routes bringing imports from the major Asian economies. Figure 9 shows the total UK imports and exports by world region. In 2008, 765,000 tonnes of air freight by weight were carried on the UK United States corridor and 768,000 tonnes on the UK Asia corridor. Each corridor accounts for just over a third of total UK air freight traffic. Figure 9: Total UK air freight volume by world region, 2008 Source: CAA Airport Statistics 2008 The air freight market to Asia has been growing at a rate of about 8.9% a year, reflecting the opening up of new markets and the emergence of China and India as global suppliers. This growth is forecast to continue between now and 2025 as these countries produce increasingly more high-value manufactures. 9 Courtesy of Royal Mail 9 IATA Freight Forecast

13 Figure 10 illustrates the growth on the Europe-Asia route between 1985 and 2005 and Figure 11 shows the predicted share of freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) in 2026 of the different corridors. Figure 10: Europe Asia air freight market (1985 to 2005) % growth per year Million tonnes Source: Airbus, Global Market Forecast Figure 11: Predicted international growth markets by 2026 Source: Airbus, Global Market Forecast Based on an average per annum growth of 6.2% for Asian routes and 4.2% for US routes. 10

14 Within Europe, recent years have seen a clear distinction between the two models of air freight. There has been strong growth in the integrated market, but volumes have remained stable in the air freight forwarding model. In part this can be explained by the growth of low-cost airlines, which do not generally carry air freight and also the increased use of narrow bodied aircraft, with limited bellyhold cargo capacity, on intra-european passenger services. Figure 12 shows the growth of the European express market from 1985 to in Over this period, scheduled freight (air freight forwarding model) and mail have remained roughly constant. Figure 12: Intra Europe air freight market (1990 to 2005) Express Mail Scheduled Flight Billion RTKs Source: Airbus, Global Market Forecast 2007 The current economic downturn is having a significant impact on the air freight sector as trade volumes have fallen and firms look for cheaper alternatives to air freight where possible. Figures published by the aviation industry body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), show that global air freight volumes shrunk by 4% in 2008 compared with the previous year, including a year-on-year fall of over 22% in December High impact global events tend to have a particularly strong effect on the international air freight market. Therefore, it is expected that air freight demand will continue to be subdued throughout the downturn. However, the industry has shown resilience in the past to adapt to worsening market conditions and bounce back during the phase of economic recovery. Courtesy of East Midlands Airport 12 Revenue tonne kilometres (RTKs) are an equivalent measure to FTKs. 11

15 The main UK import and export commodity categories reflect the use of air freight for high value or process critical goods. Figure 13 details some of the types of goods listed under each category, ordered broadly by total amount transported. Figure 13: Types of goods covered by each commodity category, as recorded by HMRC Machinery and transport equipment Miscellaneous manufactured articles Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material Chemical and related products Food and live animals Beverages and tobacco Crude materials, inedible, except fuels Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials Other Engines, engine parts, aircraft and spacecraft parts, electronic and telecommunications equipment and parts, electrical appliances Jewellery, art, medical and chemical equipment and appliances, survey equipment, antiques, clothing, books Diamonds, precious metals (platinum, silver and gold), tools, nuts and bolts, precious and semiprecious stones, articles made of iron, steel, aluminium, titanium, other metals and vulcanised rubber Medicines, blood, chemicals, health and beauty products, perfumes, ink, pigments and paints, fertilisers and pesticides Self explanatory, includes race horses Self explanatory Scrap metal and waste products, cut flowers and foliage, wool, seeds and agricultural resources, wood, building materials, dead animals and vegetable products not for human consumption Self explanatory Where not previously covered: mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials, legal tender, animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes Figure 14 and Figure 15 show the proportions of export commodity types by weight and value respectively for extra-eu trade. By both weight and value, machinery and transport equipment make up the highest proportion, accounting for over half of all exports by value. Certain categories are more significant in terms of weight than value; such as chemicals and related products, crude materials, and beverages and tobacco. This illustrates the fact that goods transported by air freight do not always have an intrinsically high value, for example medicines and chemicals, but are nevertheless critical to the consumer. Figure 16 and Figure 17 illustrate the proportions of import categories by weight and value respectively for extra-eu trade. In terms of value, machinery and transport equipment again make up the majority of trade, at over half the total imports. However, by weight, miscellaneous manufactured articles is the more significant category. A substantial proportion of imports by weight are made up of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials. This represents another category of lower value goods which are nevertheless sometimes imported by air when they are needed urgently. Comparing the export and import main commodity types for value and weight, it can be seen that the UK exports proportionally more machinery, transport equipment and manufactured goods than it imports from non-eu countries. Conversely, the UK imports more crude materials, chemicals, food and live animals than it exports. In terms of value, the UK exports a higher proportion of miscellaneous manufactured articles to non-eu countries than it imports, but the reverse is true in terms of weight. This shows that UK produced goods of this type have a higher value:weight ratio than equivalent imported articles. 12

16 Courtesy of BA World Cargo Figure 14: UK air freight exports (extra-eu) by weight, 2007 Figure 16: UK air freight imports (extra-eu) by weight, 2007 Food and live animals 6% Other 0.3% Miscellaneous manufactured articles 22% Beverages and tobacco 1% Crude materials inedible, except fuels 1% Chemicals and related products 14% Miscellaneous manufactured articles 27% Other 0.3% Food and live animals 14% Crude materials inedible, except fuels 2% Mineral fuels lubricants and related materials 18% Machinery and transport equipment 41% 414 thousand tonnes Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material 15% Machinery and transport equipment 22% 1,663 thousand tonnes Chemicals and related products 5% Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material 12% Source: Overseas Trade Statistics 2007, HMRC Source: Overseas Trade Statistics 2007, HMRC Figure 15: UK air freight exports (extra-eu) by value, 2007 Figure 17: UK air freight imports (extra-eu) by value, 2007 Miscellaneous manufactured articles 28% Other 0.5% Food and live animals 1% Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material 17% Food and live animals 1% Other 0.2% Miscellaneous manufactured articles 22% Crude materials inedible, except fuels 2% Chemicals and related products 10% Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material 13% 31.3 billion Machinery and transport equipment 53% 51.1 billion Machinery and transport equipment 51% Source: Overseas Trade Statistics 2007, HMRC Source: Overseas Trade Statistics 2007, HMRC 13

17 2.6 Key UK airports Figure 18 shows the cargo tonnes moved by both bellyhold and dedicated freighters for the top ten UK airports in terms of tonnage throughput in Bellyhold freight makes up 67% of UK air freight by weight. Heathrow accounted for a total of 1.3 million tonnes of cargo in 2008, East Midlands accounted for 0.3 million tonnes and Stansted 0.2 million tonnes. 94% of the air freight at Heathrow is carried bellyhold, whereas almost 100% of the air freight at East Midlands and Stansted is carried by dedicated freighter aircraft.gatwick and Manchester both transport a little over 100,000 tonnes of freight annually. Figure 18: The top 10 UK airports for cargo tonnes lifted and total tonnes moved in 2008 There are other airports which serve an important regional role in air freight. Particularly significant are Belfast International for Northern Ireland and Edinburgh and Prestwick for Scotland. Some regional airports specialise in particular air freight commodities, for example aircraft engines are carried on dedicated freighters out of Prestwick, due to nearby factories. Source: CAA Airport Statistics 2008 Crown copyright. All rights reserved Department for Transport Air_freight_Top10_airports 2.7 Transhipment A significant share of the UK s total air freight flow is made up of transhipments. This is where freight is consolidated from short haul flights or trucks from a range of origins and is transferred onto long haul flights for onward shipment. This is known as the hub and spoke model. 14

18 Figure 19 shows that the majority of aircraftto-aircraft transhipment occurs at Heathrow, due to the range and frequency of long haul routes offered. Courtesy of East Midlands Airport The benefits of transhipment for both air freight operator and customer are broadly analogous to the benefits from passenger interlining. In particular, although flight times are clearly longer than for direct flights, operators can offer generally greater frequency than might be possible with pointto-point operations, meaning that transit time may be shorter. Air freight transhipment can be split out into two broad categories: Aircraft-to aircraft This is very similar to transfer passengers interlining, the cargo arrives at the UK on one aircraft; it is then removed and loaded onto another aircraft for onward shipment. This accounts for an estimated 15% of UK air freight traffic. Truck-to-aircraft This is common on routes to/from continental Europe where air freight is carried by truck initially and then loaded onto an aircraft for onward transfer. Figure 19: Estimated annual volume of transhipment (aircraft-to-aircraft) Thousand tonnes London Heathrow East Midlands London Gatwick Stansted Manchester Source: DfT 15

19 3. The air freight end-to-end journey The air freight end-to-end journey, includes getting to and from the airport; clearing the goods; getting through the airport and the flight to the foreign destination. This document considers each stage of the journey in turn, identifying some of the key performance issues and market trends by compiling a range of qualitative and quantitative data collected by both the Department and external stakeholders. Figure 20 illustrates the stages of the air freight end-to-end journey, some of the key processes within each stage and the organisations responsible for delivery, regulation and policy. Many of the stages are common to both models of air freight, with the main difference being that the integrators carry out all of the stages themselves, whilst under the air freight forwarding model, a number of different businesses are involved in collection and delivery. Section 4 examines the end-to-end journey through East Midlands Airport, the UK s main airport for integrated air freight and section 5 examines the end-to-end journey through Heathrow, the UK s primary airport for air freight forwarding operations. The sections cover each stage of the end-to-end journey, specifically: Getting to and from the airport l Focuses on the land leg distribution of goods (both imports and exports) to and from the airport. This includes collection of the goods and transport to the airport using surface access means. Figure 20: The air freight end-to-end journey Source: DfT 16

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