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Hactl Mark Whitehead

Mark Whitehead, Chief Executive, Hactl

As operator of the world’s largest cargo handling facility, Hactl has had four decades of experience in navigating the complexities of the ground handling business. The company has been highly successful in 2014, even in these competitive market conditions, and expects that success to continue into 2015. Mr. Mark Whitehead, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) explains, “Hactl has outperformed expectations during 2014, and traffic (excluding the Cathay Pacific business, as they are now self-handling) is currently up 10 percent on 2013. This arose from new account wins, but also from organic growth of our 100 airline customers. Generally, this has painted a picture of a recovering and strengthening global air cargo market, and we hope 2015 will continue this trend. However, air cargo is a bellwether of international trade, and we cannot ignore some factors that could impact 2015: the US economy is still fragile and there are renewed concerns about Euro Zone debt levels. This inclines us to predict modest growth of three percent for 2015, although I hope we are erring on the side of caution, and the year may well prove another strong one for Hactl.”

In spite of Hactl’s very successful 2014, the fragile recovery means that Mr. Whitehead isn’t resting on his laurels. Hactl is looking into promising new business sectors, niches for cargo, and emerging markets. Mr. Whitehead elaborates, “We are actively engaged in looking at opportunities beyond Hong Kong through our sister company HDHL (Hactl Development Holdings Limited). This is all about packaging the skills and qualities that have made Hactl one of the most successful handlers in the world. That could take a number of forms: consultancy, JVs or developing and financing turnkey projects. We are also placing greater emphasis on our Hacis subsidiary – looking at ways to further develop its road feeder network to and from mainland China, to the benefit of carriers serving Hong Kong.”

As some niches grow and others slow down, it’s important to keep an eye on up-and-coming sectors. Mr. Whitehead comments, “Both globally and here in Hong Kong, the pharma and life science sector is on a strong growth path.

Air freight’s share of the total market may be slipping a little, but it is a growing market, and the highest-value products will continue to default to air freight.

At Hactl, we are taking all possible steps to ensure we – and therefore our customers – are fully ready to exploit this market. We recently achieved GDP accreditation – becoming the first handler in Hong Kong to do so.”

Hactl is also closely following the economic developments in Southeast Asia – making Mr. Whitehead rather optimistic for the region’s future. “Myanmar seems poised to begin developing its infrastructure; initially that could fuel some large projects that will probably benefit charters rather than scheduled carriers. As plants and infrastructure are built, and production commences, that should increase wealth and in turn drive imports. Thailand should benefit from this, too, as it will develop more trade with its neighbor which will help its own economy. Vietnam also has all the right conditions to become a larger exporter. For Hactl, with its increasing role as a regional hub and gateway to and from the rest of the world, this is all good news.”