Covid-19 is proving to be a double-edged sword in its effects on mining industry demand for air cargo charter services.
On the downside for charter operators, pandemic related project delays have reduced the overall volume of mining equipment being moved. On the upside, a massive global cutback in passenger flights has hugely reduced the bellyhold cargo space available, resulting in increased demand for chartered capacity.
Dan Morgan-Evans, group cargo director for Air Charter Service (ACS), said the company’s activity in this sector has covered both the pre-planned movement of outsize/heavy lift cargo for projects, particularly in Australia and Southern Africa, along with the urgent transport of spare parts/replacement equipment for existing mines sites worldwide.
“In total, the volume of project-related cargo business we have been getting over the last year has probably been about the same as pre-Covid,” he said. “A decrease in volumes due to delayed mining projects has been compensated for by an uptick in the number of charters requested due to a general lack of bellyhold cargo space. As a result, overall air cargo charter business in that market is steady and at a similar level to that of the last few years.”
Looking ahead, Morgan-Evans is fairly optimistic about both short and long-term air cargo charter business prospects in the mining sector. “Short term, the mining industry looks set to play catch-up and go ahead with some of the pent-up projects from last year and that is going to create a bit of a spike in business, hopefully towards the end of this year,” he commented.
A decrease in volumes due to delayed mining projects has been compensated for by an uptick in the number of charters requested due to a general lack of bellyhold cargo space. – Dan Morgan-Evans, Air Charter Service
“Meanwhile, we are already seeing enquiries relating to longer-term developments coming in again as more countries get back on their feet economically − Australia, for example, is pretty much back to normal in terms of general industry activity.”
However, Morgan-Evans also warned that the mining sector, like other industries, will likely have to contend with continuing “very high” general air cargo charter rates due to Covid-related global demand for aircraft to fly personal protective equipment (PPE), testing kits and now vaccines. That is likely to be the case at least until more passenger aircraft bellyhold capacity becomes widely available,” he added.