West delta rising part II: comprehensive network expansion and complementing airport strategies

Today’s Part II continues our feature considering the role of the recently opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge in supporting the diversification of cargo flows in China’s Pearl River Delta region. Read on to learn more about the role of the HZMB in PRD airports’ strategies to expand cargo logistics networks by air or click here to return to part I of the feature.

Beyond offering multimodal connection from Hong Kong to mainland China, airports in the western Pearl River Delta (PRD), such as Zhuhai Jinwan Airport (ZUH), offer value to air cargo logistics operators working in Hong Kong by expanding air network connectivity within mainland China.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) said to Cargo Airport News that while “Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) focuses more on international cargo, ZUH connects many Chinese second- and third-tier cities [generally those with smaller populations, GDPs and infrastructure compared to major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen]. So, cargo can land in Hong Kong, be transported to Zhuhai for procedures like bonded processing and repackaging, and then be sent out to other mainland cities using Zhuhai Airport’s network.”

In addition to the development of networks, Zhuhai and cities, such as Foshan and Jiangmen, within the western PRD have room to construct cargo facilities for increased capacity at lower land costs, which will likely be leveraged by cargo logistics providers as cargo volumes moved across the HZMB increase.

Zhuhai sidebar section : Visit this page to learn more about infrastructure development in the western PRD.

Compared to Hong Kong’s development under British rule and Shenzhen’s growth as a technological hub, both of which received ample Chinese and foreign investments since the 1980s, Zhuhai gained less attention from international markets and has instead developed more with an eye towards China’s mainland. So, in line with the cities’ development patterns, HKG and Shenzhen International Airport (SZX) to date have grown stronger international networks, while ZUH has strong domestic networks through carriers like China Express Airlines, GX Airlines, Shandong Airlines and Tianjin Airlines, For example, although Shandong Airlines also operates out of SZX to five destinations in mainland China, the carrier’s network from ZUH reaches 18 domestic destinations.

While HKG and SZX’s international trade connections have been critical to China’s economic growth, the shift in China’s economic model based on domestic middle-class consumption has become increasingly critical to fuel continued GDP growth. Thus, the Chinese government seeks to strengthen and integrate intra-Chinese logistics networks with larger international ones. Air cargo industry stakeholders, likewise, support the development as demand for e-commerce, biopharmaceuticals and perishables increases within China.

Moving forward: determining the HZMB’s lasting impact

The HZMB increases options for cargo logistics providers in the PRD region, the development comes with mixed responses from local government and industry stakeholders, and the lingering question – was the cost and time invested into constructing the bridge worth it?

Pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers like Eddie Chiu have called the bridge a “politically-driven project without urgent need,” as reported by The Guardian. Not only have taxpayers borne the costs for construction of the bridge but will also fund its future maintenance. From this point of view, the project is a waste of taxpayers’ money, with the rationale that the mainland Chinese government is in the process of building more bridges in the region. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council said that by 2024, it is expected that there will be a total of four bridges crossing the Pearl River – the Humen Pearl River Bridge, the HZMB and the new Humen Second and Shenzhen-Zhongshan Bridges, which are both under construction. This arguably creates redundancy, which could detract from the future volumes of cargo moved across the HZMB. These skeptics are not necessarily wrong, but what does this matter to logistics providers? More options are good.

Zhuhai Airport Cargo Terminal operator Peter Pang told Cargo Airport News , “The HZMB is the first step to promote the development and integration of logistics in the Pearl River Delta.” “Continued development will provide customers with diversified choices and services, which will reduce transportation costs and improve service quality.

So, politics and costs to local taxpayers aside, the HZMB does add value for logistics providers in the region. The HZMB offers an immediate alternative option for cargo transport, although it will take time for individual companies to determine the advantages to moving cargo via this route within their own strategies. Thinking towards the future, even if the bridge is redundant, the HZMB diversifies options for cargo transport, which in time may decrease risk and potential build-up of bottlenecks in the region.

Cargo Airport News will continue tracking developments along the HZMB as cargo providers begin integrating the route, with a focus whether shifts in cargo flows emerge. Ultimately, the bottom line of increased options and access to growing networks at competitive cost for companies using the bridge is beneficial to cargo logistics providers, especially as the airports will continue working together to optimize cargo flows in the PRD.