The monthly figures reported by Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl) is closely monitored by many people as a quick and reliable indication of the strength of the local economy and overall trading performance.
With the throughput in August at 210,426 tonnes, representing year-on-year growth of 3.1 per cent and the cumulative total from January to August at 1,612,960 tonnes, up 4.7 per cent against the same period last year, things are looking good.
Understandably, corporate communications manager Cindy Cheung is optimistic about prospects for the company and the logistics sector in general. "We believe the air cargo industry will continue to boom since Hong Kong has an edge as a hub within Asia thanks to its extensive flight network and the experience of its logistics providers," she says.
The company's SuperTerminal 1 at Chek Lap Kok is the world's largest air cargo terminal. The ultra modern, six-storey complex has automated handling systems throughout, which make it possible to move cargo with the utmost precision and efficiency. "We take special pride in the reliability, efficiency and security offered for high-value and time-sensitive products such as electronics, telecommunication equipment, pharmaceuticals, and high-end fashion items," Ms Cheung says.
Even so, continuous efforts are made to identify areas for improvement, and the implementation of integrated IT systems plays a big part in this. "These help to enhance the information flow, so that different parts of the logistics chain can keep close track of precise cargo status," explains personnel general manager Cecilia Cheung.
We give newcomers intensive training and have career development and succession plans
To make sure that all employees understand procedures and are experts in their respective areas, special attention is given to training. "With such an important role in the movement of air cargo, we have to be certain staff have the skills and maturity to do their jobs," Cecilia Cheung notes. "Therefore, we give newcomers intensive training and have career development and succession plans for more senior employees." She adds that this strategy is especially important since air cargo is a unique industry, and it can be difficult to find potential recruits with relevant experience.
In order to develop up and coming talent, Hactl has therefore initiated a programme for trainee supervisors. Graduates who are accepted for the programme will spend two years rotating between posts in the service delivery department to learn how the business operates.
Each recruit will also have a mentor to offer advice and assistance with any problems and to explain the various steps required for efficient cargo handling. "The intention is to empower these trainees to be able to work independently and contribute to developing new services for our clients," Cecilia Cheung says.
In many ways, the service delivery department is the heart of the company. It accounts for roughly 2,100 of the current total of 2,500 employees. The customised training courses focus on topics such as the professional handling of dangerous goods, as well as soft skills such as customer service and communications.
With the manufacturing base in southern China still generating huge volumes of cargo, Cindy Cheung expects "the pie" to keep growing. Consequently, anyone who joins the company can look forward to excellent career prospects, provided they learn the business thoroughly and are prepared to work hard.
"You must be able to cope with pressure working at the front line and have a positive attitude, while appreciating that what we do contributes directly to the Hong Kong economy," notes Cindy Cheung. "If you can do that, you will have a chance to be part of a sophisticated operation and make a contribution to Hong Kong's success in trade and logistics."