Sea-air programme to benefit all

By Nathaniel Xavier

THE SEA-AIR programme started by MASkargo will benefit Port Klang and all related parties and not just Malaysia Airlines (MAS) in the long term and would contribute towards making the country a major load centre. 

MAS senior general manager (Cargo) Ong Jyh Jong said the move would create new avenues not only for the national carrier but for all parties in the logistics chain, including forwarders, shipping lines, truckers and foreign airlines. 

He was responding to allegations by certain quarters that the newly developed initiative would only profit MAS and not the ports because of the small volume involved. 

“I beg to differ. This programme will bring value to the national concept of load centring and transhipment hub and we have contributed considerably to this. 

“In the short term, there is no denying that MAS will benefit more because the small volume improvement is big for us, but in longer term, they will also gain. 

“More feeders will start coming in, more airlines will set up base here, shipping lines are interested and might end up putting small fleet of vessels here,” he said. 

Ong said he personally knew of a customer that was now using Malaysia to do transhipment for Hong Kong, China and Indonesia, previously done via Singapore. 

“The whole concept has created new opportunities for everybody. People who were previously only interested in the air business are now keen in sea business as well, and vice versa, making these two groups converge.” 

He stressed that the sea-air link in the country was the only kind in the world that operated on the concept of an “airport within a seaport”. 

“Port Klang is a recognised air destination and given a three letter code XPQ. One can cut an airway bill (AWB) from there to any destination with reduced transport costs, simplified documentation and a single price. Shippers can buy a rate from any point in the world that we are operating into Port Klang and send their goods by rail or sea to neighbouring countries. 

“For example, a pottery in Ipoh exporting to Europe traditionally has to charter a truck and pay for the trip back. Today the shipper can send to Ipoh Cargo Terminal and just pay for one way journey on rail to Port Klang, which is cheaper, cut an AWB there and send it out. 

“Those days sea-air movements were only done for full container load because it was expensive and not worth to send only a few kilos but now it is viable to send 1kilo, or 10% by air and the other by sea. The flexibility is unimaginable.” 

Ong said that besides Port Klang, seven other ports in Malaysia have been approved as air destinations by the International Air Transport Association since Feb 21. 

These are Port of Tanjung Pelepas , Kuantan, Kuching, Bintulu, Pasir Gudang, Penang, and Kota Kinabalu. 

“I am now keen in starting the sea-air programme in Kuantan by August or September, because the Indo- china business has good prospect.” 

Ong projected that KLIA would handle 600,000 tonnes of cargo this year compared to 515,000 tonnes last year. About 51% of the total last year comprised transhipment traffic. 

“It will be good if we can continue a 17% growth for the next five years and the prospects from the sea-air is giving us hope that this is achievable and to make KLIA a better hub. 

“At the KLIA cargo village we have reduced mishandling by 95%, and are looking at the need to infuse technology into our processes to improve further. 

“For example, we are thinking of putting in chips into cargo so that we can track and monitor their movement. 

“We will also open a Priority Business Centre in Penang by April 1 and replicate some of our successful processes at our East Malaysia.” 

In a related development, Ong said MASkargo would set up its European regional office in Amsterdam by June so that the company could consolidate its presence there better, compared to from KL. 

“Ours is a time-sensitive business and we are looking at the time zone, and giving us agility to react to the demands. We will make Amsterdam our European hub as it is a commercially acceptable centre, and the support system is good, such as trucking, ground handling, and a lot of corporate headquarters are there, so it makes sense to focus there. 

“As for the advanced cargo centre in Hahn, MAS has stopped operating there since February 2001 and have no investments there. 

“We no longer fly there because Amsterdam is a more acceptable hub and we are working with KLM, so it makes sense to share the same base for convenience 

Ong said Shanghai was also an important market and had become its second largest station after KLIA, bigger even than Penang. 

“In Shanghai itself 369 new factories have been approved to start operating this year. In a nutshell, Shanghai has a lot of potential. 

“We would like to start daily freighter services there as we have rights to operate them. Currently we are flying five freighters weekly.” 

From April 2002 to January this year, MASkargo freighters carried 16,800 tonnes of cargo between Shanghai and KLIA and 30,400 tonnes on the Amsterdam-KL route. 

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