When Zhengzhou first joined the Cathay Cargo network 11 years ago, it was known as iPhone City, in recognition of the giant Foxconn plant there. Now under the impetus of the Central Government, it’s pursuing a new name – Memphis.
Well, sort of. The aim is to propel Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport into the same league of air cargo hub as Memphis International Airport in the US. Memphis, the second-biggest cargo port in the world by tonnage after Hong Kong, is both an international and domestic air hub, and home to integrator giant FedEx.
That scale matches the plans for the Zhengzhou ‘Aerotopolis’, a 415 square kilometre economic zone that connects manufacturing with the city’s growing transport modes. Along with Foxconn and other IT manufacturing companies, including those specialising in semi-conductors, Zhengzhou is home to BYD Motors, one of the market leaders in electronic vehicles (EVs), and e-commerce giant Pinduoduo (PDD). As industry and the airport have developed, the number of freight forwarders has grown too, with around 300 now operating there.
As for the airport itself, in 2022, Zhengzhou Xinzheng served around 9 million passengers at its single terminal, the numbers down by nearly half because of pandemic restrictions, but it still handled just over 624,000 tonnes of cargo, using the current two runways and seven cargo terminals. By 2035, Zhengzhou Xinzheng is expected to have five runways, new passenger facilities, and more warehouses across three separate cargo zones, capable of handling five million tonnes of cargo – growth that will further drive Zhengzhou up the Chinese Mainland’s airport rankings and near the top of the global league table.
Cathay Cargo moved into the new North Terminal one year ago. The benefits of the new facility compared with the old were immediately clear, with enough space at the warehouse parking stands to enable nose-loading for the Boeing 747 freighters. The first Cathay Cargo flight from the new terminal left with a 7.2 metre out-of-gauge shipment among its 107 tonnes of cargo, which also included electronic products, clothing, vaccines and fresh produce.
Those last two items are important, explains Cargo Duty Manager Carrie Guan, part of the 10-strong Cathay Cargo team at the site. ‘Now that we have moved to the new terminal, we have access to a much bigger cold room, and we are better set for shipments that require special handling such as pharma and dangerous goods,’ says Guan.
Along with 16 aircraft stands – ‘We can often see the aircraft from our office,’ notes Guan – there are 3,000 square metres of cold chain storage with seven temperature zones. There are special-handling processes for temperature-sensitive shipments and a supportive customs service.
Multiple truck connections
Those features, along with access to Cathay Cargo’s freighters, add to the draw of the North Terminal’s cargo-handling services; and because of Zhengzhou’s location in the central Henan Province, there is a lot of feeder volume by truck for both imports and exports.
Cathay Cargo, working with partner Henan Hanglian International, offers scheduled and non-scheduled trucking services from Zhengzhou to around 25 major cities across the central, northern, and south-western Chinese Mainland. ‘These services are available for import or export at Zhengzhou, Shanghai or other Cathay Cargo ports,’ says Guan.
That means Cathay Cargo teams at neighbouring airports, such as Wuhan, often use Zhengzhou for its modern and sophisticated cargo handling and facilities. ‘We have excellent cooperation between Zhengzhou and Wuhan,’ says Guan. ‘Wuhan is a Cathay Pacific passenger port, and there are no freighters, so we work closely on promotions and transfers of special-handling cargo between the two ports.’
The unique capabilities at Zhengzhou mean that the Cathay Cargo team there handle a lot of outsized shipments, along with perishables and live animals. ‘Our super-heavy cargo and overhanging cargo performance has been very strong,’ says Guan. ‘This has included aircraft engines and cars.’
Among the forwarders to take advantage of this is CEVA Logistics, as its Space Control Supervisor, Jason Xing, explains. ‘The words that spring to mind are professionalism and efficiency,’ he says. ‘Cathay Cargo has continued to prove these points via managing shipments that need special handling, such as bulk or dangerous goods. It has helped make the impossible possible for a 10.84-metre ultra-long shipment, carrying batteries or vehicles. It has laid the foundation for a long-term cooperation.’
There is now a new opening for imports on Cathay Cargo into Zhengzhou. Previously, the Hong Kong-Shanghai-Zhengzhou freighter service, which runs on day three, could not accept shipments into Zhengzhou because of the stop in Shanghai (PVG). Now, however, the customs teams at both airports have come to an agreement to make this possible, so there is opportunity for forwarders to secure this space.
But with so much growth coming in the short and long term, interested parties may need to move quickly.