Air cargo in the Asia-Pacific region is set to grow by up to 8 per cent a year over the next three years, a research report predicts. The Warburg Dillon Read study says the volume of air freight will increase by 8.1 per cent this year, 7.2 per cent in 1999 and 8.1 per cent in 2000. This compares with a growth level of 10.3 per cent in 1997, before the full effects of the Asian economic crisis began to be felt. The survey of 31 airlines, including 12 Asian carriers, estimates that earnings from cargo operations will rise from $52.53 billion this year to $56.1 billion in 1999 and $60.34 billion in 2000. Warburg Dillon Read said publication of the survey, Asian Airline Analyser, had been delayed to reassess the rapidly changing macroeconomic environment. Despite this, the head of cargo operations at one leading airline believed the survey results already had been overtaken by the handling problems at Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals' SuperTerminal 1 at Chek Lap Kok. 'With quite a bit of freight moving out of Macau and embargoes on other shipments, it has screwed the estimates for the rest of the year,' he said. The fact that passenger and freighter aircraft had been carrying only a fraction of their cargo capacity also would affect the figures. He believed the difficulties would continue at least to the end of this month. In an assessment of individual airlines, the Warburg Dillon Read report said cargo traffic at Cathay Pacific Airways would grow by 5 per cent this year and 10 per cent in 1999 and 2000. These growth forecasts translated into sales of $8.08 billion this year, $8.89 billion next year and $9.78 billion in 2000, Warburg Dillon Read said. By comparison, Cathay Pacific's air-cargo business grew 12.2 per cent last year, and 14 per cent in 1996. Other airlines were set to see similar levels of growth in air freight, the report said. Korean Airlines would average 8 per cent growth over the next two years, with 9 per cent in 2000, compared with 14 per cent growth in 1997. Similarly, Malaysia Airlines experienced a 7.9 per cent increase this financial year, with an 8 per cent rise forecast in 1999, 10 per cent in 2000 and 9 per cent in 2001. At Thai Airways, air cargo was set to grow by 9 per cent this year and 6 per cent in 1999 and 2000. Although healthy, the figures are pale when compared with a massive 26 per cent rise in cargo in 1997. Singapore Airlines achieved growth of 12 per cent this year, with a 6 per cent increase forecast in 1999 and 7.5 per cent in 2000. Cargo growth in 1997 was 11.2 per cent. Volumes at Taiwan's China Airlines were predicted to rise 17 per cent this year, 10 per cent in 1999 and 9 per cent in 2000. This would boost sales from about $3.56 million last year to $4.34 million this year, $4.83 million the year after and $5.23 million in 2000.