THE Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding Agents (HAFFA) has rejected plans for a forwarding centre at Chek Lap Kok and has threatened to develop its own facility off airport grounds. In a letter to the Provisional Airport Authority (PAA), association chairman Walther Nahr said the site would be too expensive to build and that the high construction costs would be passed on to forwarders through high rents. Mr Nahr said HAFFA, which has more than 250 members, was 'seriously considering' approaching developers to construct a joint facility off-site to be ready for the new airport's opening, in 1997 or 1998. 'We have spoken to two of the companies that have expressed interest in the PAA's centre and we feel it is becoming a very expensive exercise,' he said. 'It is a combination of things. First, we feel that the building costs are high because of the difficulty of access to the site, and because everything would have to be barged. 'Second, there is a premium to be paid to the authority and third, there will be a lease of only 20 years. 'All these things will make costs very high. So we are keeping our options open and are seriously considering building one off-airport. We are simply facing the reality.' Mr Nahr said he was hoping to hold discussions with the PAA soon, aimed at finding a compromise, but said that if one was not reached, an independent freight forwarding centre was likely to be built in the Tsuen Wan or Tsing Yi areas. In January, the PAA called for expressions of interest in the development of the six-hectare site, which would have more than 1.07 million square feet of lettable space including that for warehousing, loading platforms, truck parking bays and offices. Freight forwarders are responsible for consolidating outbound cargo from several shippers at a single location, booking space for the shipments on air carriers and arranging for delivery at their destination. A PAA spokesman yesterday said that a survey was commissioned in the first half of last year and found 'considerable industry support' for a centre at the new airport. It was conducted by the PAA and the University of Hong Kong, and assisted by HAFFA. The spokesman also said HAFFA had been consulted at the outset and was involved in drawing up summary specifications for prospective developers.