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“Animal Limo” Provides First-class Experience

Article submitted by: Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals, Ltd. – a TIACA Trustee Member

Written by: Wilson Kwong, Chief Executive

Unlike the majority of air cargo handling facilities around the world, Hactl’s SuperTerminal 1 has always embodied comprehensive resources for handling every conceivable kind of live animal cargo; and Hactl has accordingly built up a long track record of successful live animal movements. The company is frequently called upon to handle imports and exports of zoo animals, conservation animals, livestock and bloodstock. It has famously been the handler for the Longines Masters of Hong Kong every year since their launch in 2013; annually, this has involved the safe handling of over 60 arriving competition horses, and their re-export after the competition’s finish. Hactl also handles large numbers of domestic pets every year.

But, even when you have such a decades-long, award-winning history of handling live animals, there is always something more that can be done to improve the experience for these special passengers. And it is Hactl’s constant quest to ensure that the live animals it handles have the most comfortable and least stressful ground handling experience possible, that has led it to design and build its new “Animal Limo”: a custom-built ramp transfer vehicle for transporting smaller animals and domestic pets between its SuperTerminal 1 and waiting aircraft.

Although quite short, this trip from terminal to an aircraft requires crossing a busy and noisy ramp, often in bad weather or excessive heat. So Hactl invested in this new vehicle, which it had specially-built to its own design by a local airport equipment manufacturer. The aim of the “Animal Limo” is to provide a comfortable, hygienic, sound-proof and air-conditioned environment.

Its real-time telematics system provides data on its location, and interior temperature and humidity; it is also fitted with a temperature alarm system. Viewing windows on all sides enable staff to monitor the condition of animal passengers, without risking potential cross-contamination from physical contact.

Hactl’s “Animal Limo” is the latest step in a long history of proactive and comprehensive animal welfare measures. During 2020, Hactl completely revised and upgraded all its live animal facilities in preparation for accreditation under IATA CEIV Live Animals. Enhancements included re-locating the Live Animals Inspection Area adjacent to the Live Animal Handling Centre to improve efficiency. It also modified both the North- and South Live Animals Handling Centres to include new storage racks, flooring and markings, and assign dedicated areas for venomous, dangerous and poisonous animals. Hactl’s Horse Handling Centre 1 was totally renovated with new rest facilities for veterinary staff and grooms post-flight, while the Horse Handling Centre 2 was reconfigured to provide instant overflow capacity to cater for any unexpected peaks in traffic. It was also fitted with new ventilation fans to protect horses in transit from the risk of heat stroke during Hong Kong’s hot and humid summers.

Once all these upgrades were in place, Hactl successfully applied for certification under what was then the newly-introduced IATA CEIV Live Animals standard, becoming one of the first handlers in the world to achieve it. Hactl now holds all four IATA CEIV accreditations (Pharma, Fresh, Live Animals, Li-batt).

Wilson Kwong, Hactl’s Chief Executive, says: “Just like passengers, live animals deserve the very best transport experience possible, and the ground element is extremely important in this respect.

“All animals matter to us, no matter how large or small, or whether they are high value race horses or people’s much-loved pets. We see it as part of our responsibility to our carrier customers to provide the resources and procedures to enable them to carry this traffic, and we also acknowledge our duty to do so while constantly safeguarding the animals and caring for their wellbeing. So all our facilities and procedures are geared to maximising comfort and safety, and minimising stress.”

He concludes: “Owners deserve the reassurance that their valued animal is being cared for at all stages in its journey, and in the best possible way. Hactl’s Animal Limo is the latest step in maintaining our objectives and high standards.”