Air cargo specialists can reach for the sky

by Susanna Tai

Luiz Tung, managing director, FedEx Hong Kong and Macau

Life-long learning is pivotal for success in the logistics sector

Provided exports from the Pearl River Delta (PRD) maintain their current momentum and Hong Kong retains its position as a gateway for the mainland's air cargo, there is every reason for players in the local express and logistics sectors to remain optimistic. The latest industry figures show continuing robust growth in volumes, with air cargo throughput at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) in the first half of 2005 reaching a record high of 1.12 million tonnes. This represents year-on-year growth of 5.6 per cent for an airport which is already one of the busiest in the world.

"Hong Kong is the mainland's principal gateway for air cargo, particularly for goods flowing to and from the PRD, for which it handles about 80 per cent of exports," says Luiz Tung, managing director of FedEx Hong Kong and Macau, citing HKIA data. He adds that the city is still a vital transport centre for China's developing economy and a conduit for goods from the mainland's majoy manufacturing base. For this reason, FedEx remains firmly committed to Hong Kong and will keep expanding in order to boost market share. "We've had our Asia Pacific headquarters here since 1992 and see opportunities for further growth by adding to our present total of around 1,000 employees," Mr Tung says.

The most recent sign of this has been the opening of an eighth station in Hong Kong earlier this year to meet increasing demand for logistics services. Located in Tsuen Wan, the newest station includes an office and an operations area of 41,000 square feet. The site was chosen to be close to key customers as well as the airport, so as to provide faster delivery for time-sensitive goods. "The new station can handle up to 6,400 packages per hour of any size or shape," notes Mr Tung. Besides that, in June, the company also extended the call-in cut-off times by more than two hours for shipments to Europe. "That gives customers more time and flexibility in arranging their shipments," he adds.

Open skies

To maintain long-term growth, Mr Tung believes that Hong Kong must compete as a regional hub and logistics centre. The secret to this lies in liberalising the aviation regime. In this respect, FedEx strongly supports an "open skies" approach and agreements which make that possible. "We encourage completely open aviation regimes between all countries and territories, rather than maintaining restrictive systems and granting incremental rights over time," Mr Tung confirms.

He points out that, unlike Hong Kong, the mainland has shown its willingness to enter into open bilateral aviation agreements for air cargo and has recently signed a number of forward-looking agreements with countries in Asia. China has also opened up its transportation sector to foreign investment under the terms of the WTO.

In planning for the future, FedEx prefers to recruit locally and promote from within. "Our programme for developing first-rate managers is a model for other companies. It lays the groundwork for careers which progress to senior management level and offers diverse training in many aspects of the business," Mr Tung says. In the Asia Pacific region, about 90 per cent of the company's current managers and directors have worked their way up from junior positions, and nothing artificially limits how far they can go. "In Hong Kong, many of our current management team started in frontline roles as couriers. They have developed by taking internal and external training courses and through receiving the full support of the company," he explains.

Generous subsidies

The company's aim is to offer continuous training for employees and to encourage each person to develop to their full potential by making the most of the available opportunities. All staff receive between 40 and 50 hours of formal training per year and there is a generous reimbursement scheme to assist those who take outside courses. Full-time employees are entitled to a maximum reimbursement of US$2,500 a year for tuition fees, while part-timers can get as much as US$1,250 annually under the programme. "In our last financial year, there were over 2,500 applications for tuition reimbursement in Hong Kong alone," Mr Tung says.

With this comes the expectation that employees and new recruits will be enthusiastic, make a positive contribution and show commitment to their roles in a dynamic company which is part of a fast-growing industry. Apart from being team players and good communicators, applicants should also show they have the attitude and aptitude to meet customer expectations. They must be willing to keep learning and demonstrate a keen interest in the industry. "If you are not interested in the job, you may fail to meet the challenges ahead and lack the necessary dedication," Mr Tung adds.

Regional hub

  • Hong Kong's logistics sector should continue to benefit from economic growth in the Pearl River Delta
  • The air cargo industry should aim to promote Hong Kong as a regional hub and logistics centre
  • New aviation regime can create opportunities for business expansion
  • A company policy of promoting from within has allowed many junior staff to reach senior management positions
  • Recruits must demonstrate an interest in the industry and the willingness to pursue life-long learning

Taken from Career Times 16 December 2005
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