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ROSWELL, GA-Memphis International Airport, home to FedEx, remains the world’s busiest cargo airport, according to new rankings from Air Cargo World using numbers from Airports Council International. Hong Kong International, which is No. 1 for passenger transport, holds the second spot.

A second US airport, Anchorage International, held the No. 3 spot for cargo, largely on the basis of its role as a stop-over and transfer point. Seoul Incheon retained No. 4 despite a slowdown by primary carrier Korean Air. According to Air Cargo World, China figures strategically in Incheon’s fortunes not only because of a threat posed by Chinese airports as alternative gateways for Northeast Asia, but also because last year transshipment traffic for the first time surpassed origin/destination cargo, with China accounting for a large portion of transshipment volume.

In regard to growth, Shanghai Pudong was the world’s top market with a 15.5% jump in cargo volume for ’07. But looking back over the past three years, No. 38 Liege held top spot with a 20.6% increase in cargo volume, followed by Milan Malpensa Airport at 16% and Beijing Capital Airport at 15.8%.

Significantly, in terms of competition with the US, Hong Kong’s rate of growth outpaced Memphis last year and the first part of 2008, placing it in position to move to the top of the list before long. The publication points out the airport’s expansion comes even as the Chinese government and carriers increasingly direct business toward the competing airports of mainland China. It notes that cargo at the nearby airports of Baiyun Guangzho and Shenzhen grew 6.4% and 10.1%, respectively, while the FedEx hub in construction at Guangzho and announced UPS hub at Shenzhen give a further boost to mainland facilities.

Furthermore, some US gateways are seeing declining volumes, with JFK and Newark both experiencing nearly 3% drops in ’07. Chicago O’Hare, Oakland and Dallas/Ft Worth also saw declines. Even more alarming, says Air Traffic World, is a precipitous drop in freight in mid-size and small markets, with double-digit slides at several airports. Cargo volume plummeted 25.7% at San Diego, 16.3% at Charlotte-Douglas, 12% at Columbus Rickenbacker, 10.6% at Tampa and 9.5% at San Jose. Indiana’s Ft. Wayne Airport saw a disastrous 44.6% drop due to the demise of Kitty Hawk Air Cargo.

The publication calls the Middle East and India the bright spots for airport expansion, with No. 13 Dubai showing 11% growth in cargo volume last year, and Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, though not in the top 50, inching up the list with growth of 22.7% and 16.2%, respectively. Mumbai and New Delhi, also not in the top 50, showed increases of 12.1% and 8.7%, respectively, despite infrastructure that significantly limits long-term growth.

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