Another air cargo operator could be brought in before 2003 to increase competition, legislators were told. The Airport Authority had obtained the agreement of the two existing operators on the proposal that a third company could start before or by mid-2003. There will be no restrictions on the number of operators after mid-2008. The agreement gives the Airport Authority flexibility to increase the number of operators if existing ones cannot increase their services to meet market demand. Other details, such as the upper limit on service charges could not be disclosed due to confidentiality terms in the contract, Acting Secretary for Economic Services Maria Kwan Sik-ning said. She refused to state the earliest date a new operator could start. Ms Kwan told lawmakers the Airport Authority had been monitoring the market trends to consider the need to increase the number of operators. It would consider factors including terms of existing franchise agreements, trends and forecasts for air cargo transport, prevailing market conditions and the time for negotiation of a new agreement and construction of facilities. The two existing operators are Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminal Limited and Asia Airfreight Terminal. Four specialist express cargo operators handle their own cargo. 'Compared with only one operator at Kai Tak Airport, competition in the air cargo handling service has increased significantly,' Ms Kwan said.