Global delivery giant FedEx said Wednesday it was closing its crew base in Hong Kong and relocating pilots overseas because of the city’s strict anti-coronavirus measures.
The move is the latest blow to Hong Kong’s reputation as a global logistics hub as strict travel curbs and mandatory quarantine rules keep the city cut off from the rest of the world.
“As the global business environment continues to evolve and with the pandemic requirements in Hong Kong, FedEx has made the decision to close its Hong Kong crew base and relocate its pilots,” FedEx said in a statement to AFP.
“FedEx will continue to maintain its operations in Hong Kong, which is vital to our Asia Pacific and global network,” the company added.
The South China Morning Post also reported FedEx’s decision and quoted from a company memo written by system chief pilot Robin Sebasco.
“The decision to close the Hong Kong base reflects this constant evolution and is designed to provide a measure of stability to these team members, as there is no clear timeline when life may return to normal in Hong Kong,” Sebasco wrote.
He added that the company would continue to serve Hong Kong with pilots based in Oakland, California.
The announcement came a day after Hong Kong — the world’s busiest international cargo hub — sent more than 100 Cathay Pacific cargo pilots into mandatory 21-day quarantine because three tested positive for the coronavirus on returning from Germany.
Earlier in the week, the South China Morning Post said Cathay is considering relocating some of its pilots overseas on four month rotations.
Hong Kong has maintained some of the world’s harshest quarantine measures and travel restrictions during the pandemic.
The strategy has kept infections low but ensured a business hub that dubs itself “Asia’s World City” has been cut off internationally for the past 20 months.
The government has tied the city’s fortunes to China’s “zero-Covid” strategy and said normalisation of travel with the mainland must come before any reopening to the rest of the world.
Officials have warned quarantine rules are unlikely to be removed until at least summer 2022, possibly later.
That has sparked growing exasperation within Hong Kong’s international business community at a time when rival business hubs like Singapore, London and New York are reopening and learning to live with the coronavirus.
Banking chiefs, business lobby groups and commerce chambers have all warned publicly in recent weeks that companies in Hong Kong are now struggling to retain and recruit talent because of the restrictions.