Air cargo will rise above turmoil

747-400 Boeing Converted Freighter.

Boeing says air cargo traffic is tipped to triple. 

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has projected a tripling of worldwide air freight traffic by 2027, despite worsening economic situations.

Boeing, in its world air cargo forecast 2008-09, said world air freight would expand at an annual rate of 5.8 per cent over the next two decades.

World air cargo traffic grew 5.1 per cent in 2007, following 3.2 per cent growth in 2006, and 1.7 per cent growth in 2005, making the past three years the weakest growth period for the industry since the first Gulf War.

Despite near-term uncertainties, the report said constant growth would be achieved by the industry’s resilience, which had been seen in the previous Asian economic crisis, the 9/11 attack and the SARS outbreak.

“Our research tells us that long-term economic growth, freight fleet renewal and moderating jet fuel prices will stimulate air cargo traffic growth,” Boeing marketing vice president Randy Tinseth said at the International Air Cargo Forum in Kuala Lumpur.

“These positive prospects will prevail despite the industry’s concerns about our current economic challenges.”

Mr Tinseth said world GDP was projected to average higher than three per cent during the next 20 years, with Asian production sectors led by China to remain solid.

Cargo will be at the forefront of increased liberalisation of air services driving economic growth, he said.

The report said the Asian air cargo market would continue its growth in excess of the global average, with domestic Chinese and intra-Asian markets set to expand 9.9 per cent and 8.1 per cent each year.

The world freight fleet will almost double from 1,950 to 3,890 aircraft during the 20-year period. Large freighters such as the Boeing 747 and 777 will account for 35 per cent of the fleet, providing 74 per cent of total capacity.

More than 75 per cent of the 3,360 freighters joining the fleet will come from passenger-to-freighter modifications, while 860 will be new production freighters.

Boeing marketing regional director Jim Edgar said air cargo remained crucial to globalisation.

“We’ve seen market contraction during the middle of this year for the first time since late 2003.

“However, history tells us that the air cargo market returns robustly when the economy strengthens,” he said.

Meanwhile, Boeing has announced Air China Cargo will add three 747-400 Boeing converted freighters to its cargo fleet. The airline currently operates eight freighters, including 747-400 and 747-200 freighters. 

More than 300 747 freighters are operating today, representing about half the world’s dedicated-freighter capacity.

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