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13 April 2024

Regional airfreight growth expected to remain steady

Airfreight volumes from the Middle East are expected to grow to 5.3m tonnes in 2009. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Ashaba K Abdul Basti

Growth within the Middle East airfreight industry is projected to remain steady this year, but will show a declining trend in the next eighteen years, says a new forecast of the industry.

According to the most recent Global Traffic Forecast 2008-2027 by Airports Council International (ACI), airfreight in the region will grow by 7.9 per cent this year compared to the eight per cent growth registered last year, and will continue to benefit from high oil prices.

The regional airfreight growth is projected to drop to 7.2 per cent in 2011 and to five per cent in 2017.

According to the report, economic activity is expected to remain the main vector for growth in the regional and global airfreight industry. "Domestic demand typically fuels freight activity and globalisation boosts international freight as trade expands," it said.

Airfreight volumes from the Middle East are expected to grow from last year's 4.97 million tonnes to 5.36 million in 2009 and 13.4 million tonnes in 2027.

Freight operations measured in tonnes are expected to grow faster than passenger activities and by 2027 global freight volumes will nearly triple to surpass the 200 million mark, averaging an annual growth of 5.1 per cent. Asia-Pacific is forecast to grow at the fastest rate, averaging 6.6 per cent per annum due to strong growth of manufacturing in China and India.

The Asia-Pacific region will also experience the fastest growth for freight, becoming the most important region by 2027.

"The geographic position of the region favours the development of international cargo hub operations," said ACI. North America is projected to grow at a slower rate than other world regions, averaging 3.5 per cent per annum between now and 2027, due to the region's relative maturity.

In 2007, North America was the largest region in the world for freight with an estimated 34 per cent, but over the next few years Asia-Pacific is expected to surpass it.

The region's airfreight growth fell by 1.2 per cent last year and is expected to grow at -1.0 per cent this year. Over the next two decades total aircraft movements are set to increase from about 60 million to over 130 million, representing an annual growth rate of 2.8 per cent. Total commercial movements will double during the forecast period.

Recent airfreight reports have painted a grim picture for both the global and regional airfreight industry.

The International Air Traffic Association (Iata) said last month that global airfreight traffic had dropped by 13.5 per cent in the month of November alone.

Although Middle Eastern carriers faced a decline of 1.6 per cent in freight traffic following a growth of one per cent in October, the decline was negligible compared with global figures.

"With no end in sight for the worsening global economy, the 2008 gloom will continue in the new year. Relief in the oil price has been outstripped by the falls in demand and capacity cuts are not keeping pace. The industry is back in intensive care. Improving efficiency will be theme for 2009," said Giovanni Bisignani, Iata's Director General and Chief Executive, at the end of 2008.