By: Professor Barry E. Prentice and Yui-yip Lau
The airplane carriage of international trade, based on complex supply chains and competition between hub-and-spoke transport operations, has developed steadily over the past 70 years into a mature industry. All this could be subject to disruption by aerospace technology advances that are leading to the development of transport airships. The emergence of transport airships has the potential to create fundamental changes in trans-oceanic freight transport markets, geographical coverage and world trade patterns. This paper explores the current state of the Hong Kong airfreight industry and examines how transport airships could influence the future of Hong Kong aviation services.
A new conceptual model, the value-density cargo pyramid, is developed to conduct comparative analysis among dedicated cargo airplanes, sea-air logistics, sea containers and transport airships, notably in the busy trade corridors between Hong Kong and Europe, and Hong Kong and North America. Based on reasonable assumptions, transport airships could capture up to half of the existing “dedicated cargo aircraft” capacity. The race is on to create this new transportation mode and the first-movers will have an advantage. This paper provides valuable insights on an immense opportunity that awaits Asian shippers and could take Hong Kong and all of Asia to a new higher level of development and economic prosperity.