DHL EXPRESS, the small parcels delivery arm of Deutsche Post’s DHL Group, has added a newly converted B737-800 freighter to its fleet in the Asia-Pacific region ahead of an anticipated peak-season surge of cross-border e-commerce sales, writes Thelma Etim.

Proffering a weekly payload of almost 140 tonnes, the Bangkok-based cargo airline K-Mile Asia, a partner of DHL, will operate the aircraft six times a week from Hanoi to Hong Kong and Bangkok, before returning to Hanoi.

“This is a 30 per cent increase in capacity carried previously by the B737-400SF freighter, enabling better preparation and response to the anticipated growth in shipment volumes in the coming months,” outlines a statement.

“The expanded capacity and increased flight frequency from five to six times per week will equally enable businesses and consumers from these three markets to capitalise on the growth in trade opportunities within Asia, as they benefit from quicker deliveries and shorter transit times,” it adds.

Almost 75 per cent of online shoppers in Hong Kong and 50 per cent in Thailand have made purchases on overseas platforms. Similarly, Vietnam has also seen an acceleration in cross-border e-commerce activities, the integrator notes.

Asia Pacific’s e-commerce sales are expected to almost double to US$2 trillion by 2025, according to global market research company Euromonitor International. Following Latin America, the Asia region is predicted to see the highest retailing sales growth between 2020-2025, propelled by a number of key contributory factors such as increased digitalisation and improved connectivity via mobile devices.

The DHL Express B737-800 freighter joins three other aircraft in the fleet that concurrently and collectively serves Hong Kong, Phnom Penh, Singapore and Jakarta, as part of DHL Express’ business strategy centring on augmenting its Asia Pacific network supported by an investment of almost to €60million to introduce new aircraft and direct routes, the company points out.

The news follows confirmation from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that economic recovery is well underway in developing Asia, however the growth projection had to be revised down slightly from 7.3 per cent in April to 7.2 per cent for 2021 following recent outbreaks of Coronavirus caused by new variants, which “drag on recovery in several economies,” it says. Whilst COVID-19 national immunisation programmes are progressing in many economies in the region, Asia is still far from achieving herd immunity, the bank notes.

Yasuyuki Sawada, chief economist at ADB, confirms that growth is gaining momentum across developing Asia but renewed COVID-19 outbreaks currently pose a threat to recovery. “Economies in the region are on diverging paths. Their trajectories are shaped by the extent of domestic outbreaks, the pace of their vaccine roll-outs, and how much they are benefiting from the global recovery,” he stresses.

Rising exports are also augmenting some economies amidst strengthening global economic activity, including a rebound in manufacturing. Progress on the production and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines has also contributed to this momentum, but the pandemic remains the biggest risk for the region as potential delays in vaccine rollouts or significant new outbreaks could undermine growth, according to the bank.

Ken Lee, chief executive of DHL Express Asia Pacific, points out: “Asia Pacific has remained resilient despite the economic impact brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, we are seeing increased activity in cross-border trade and e-commerce within the region due to improved logistics, enhanced connectedness, as well as reduced trade barriers,” he adds.

“With the expansion of our airfreight capacity, we are confident that we can provide businesses in Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong with better access to other markets via our extensive global network and boost their economies in the process.”

Sean Wall, executive vice-president of network operations and aviation at DHL Express Asia Pacific, notes that as consumers get used to shopping online, businesses are equally making the leap to digital platforms to conduct their B2B transactions, not to mention many of which are helmed by digital natives who have grown up in the age of the Internet.

“To tackle this surge in demand, we have been actively finding opportunities to enhance our fleet, including the conversion of suitable passenger aircraft. Utilising the B737-800 will also help us reduce carbon emissions by 15 per cent as compared to the B737 classic aircraft, which is one of the deciding factors, as we accelerate toward our climate-neutral logistics target,” he insists.

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