BUSINESS is booming for multinational freight forwarder Schenker, said the general manager of the fairs and exhibitions department, Clement Law. ''Exhibition and fair mobilisation is an important part of the company's overall business and it has been enjoying a steady increase over the past decade,'' he said. ''We now have five times more business in this sector of forwarding than we did five years ago and the trend looks set to continue.'' Schenker Hong Kong is the company's head office for Taiwan and China. The company entered China in 1979 and was one of the first foreign forwarders to be officially registered on the mainland. It has an international network of 500 overseas branches. ''Prior to 1979, China basically hosted only friendship exhibitions with countries such as the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia,'' Mr Law said. ''The introduction of the open-door policy paved the way for international trade shows and coincided with a worldwide expansion of the business.'' Freight forwarding to fairs and exhibitions is specialised. Of the more than 2,000 forwarders in the territory, only 20 were involved in this area, he said. Fairs and exhibitions presented a different range of problems to those usually encountered in the shipment of materials, equipment and people. Schenker is responsible for making sure that goods arrive at the exhibition booths in the right order, so stowage has to be carefully controlled. Special moving and mounting equipment is needed so that the exhibits can be put into position without damaging them. ''For southern cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou, where there is no international seaport, we consolidate goods in Hong Kong,'' Mr Law said. ''Chinese customs usually have an office at the fair site. In Beijing, for instance, a special customs permit is needed to transfer goods from the terminal to the fair site. ''Customs clearance is faster in Hong Kong because most goods are duty free. In China, every item must be cleared so we have to allow a longer lead time of three weeks instead of the usual two weeks in Hong Kong.'' Since 1984, Schenker has been the official forwarder for the Asia-Pacific Leather Fair, one of the biggest events in Hong Kong. ''This year, we moved about 400 cubic metres for exhibitors,'' he said. There were two constraints on business turnover. ''There is an inherent restraint according to the feasible number of exhibitions that can be held. There are only 12 months a year and most shows last five or six days,'' he said. The second limitation was availability of floor space, which was reflected in the volume of cargo handled by the company. Prospects for handling even greater volumes would be increased when the extension to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre was completed. ''The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre has been vital to Hong Kong's success. In 1989, when it opened, Japan and Singapore were ahead of us in terms of expositions but this is no longer the case,'' Mr Law said. One of the firm's major assets was its market intelligence backed up through its worldwide system and expertise of its staff. Schenker's business from Spain and the United States has showed a marked increase. Germany, Italy and Japan also accounted for a large sector of business. ''Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan are still very young when it come to participation in Hong Kong exhibitions, but they are starting to become active,'' he said. In China, Europe and Japan continued to take the lead in choosing it as trade fair venue. The United States was more conservative in the China market, he said.