(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The Middle East carriers recorded a robust 13 per cent air cargo growth in 2013, far outstripping the scant global average increase of 1.4 per cent as the International Air Transport Association warned of tougher times ahead this year.
Iata Director General and Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler said he expected 2014 to be a challenging year for the air cargo industry after a tough year last year.
World trade continued to expand more rapidly than demand for air cargo but suffered from increasing protectionist measures by governments, he said.
"The relative good fortunes of passenger markets compared to cargo make it difficult for airlines to match capacity to demand," Tyler said in a statement.
The dynamics in which the air cargo industry operates were changing, but air cargo's basic value proposition remained the same, Tyler pointed out.
He said industry players needed to get better at delivering it through improved technology and modern processes as customers still need speed, quality, reliability and efficiency. "This will be a year of change for air cargo," he said.
With the exception of Middle East, cargo markets across the world made very slow progress during the first half of the year.
Middle Eastern carriers continued their strong growth, expanding freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) by 13 per cent in December and by 12.8 per cent for 2013 as a whole.
"The Middle East has benefitted from improving economic conditions in Europe as well as solid growth in domestic Gulf economies. Middle Eastern carriers have also captured a significant share of the increase in the volumes out of Africa," Iata said.
While cargo markets made very slow progress during the first half of the year, acceleration in the trend took root in the latter half of 2013, placing air freight volumes on a steadily increasing trajectory, Iata said.
Capacity grew faster than demand at 2.6 per cent and load factors were weak at 45.3 per cent.
Regional performance varied. Middle Eastern and Latin American carriers reported the strongest growth in demand (12.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively). Asia-Pacific carriers, which have nearly 40 per cent of the global air freight market, saw cargo activities shrink by one per cent over the year.
Tyler said 2013 was a tough year for cargo. "While we saw some improvement in demand from the second half of the year, we can still expect that 2014 will be a challenging year. World trade continues to expand more rapidly than demand for air cargo. Trade itself is suffering from increasing protectionist measures by governments. And the relative good fortunes of passenger markets compared to cargo make it difficult for airlines to match capacity to demand."
In December global FTKs grew 1.8 per cent compared to a year ago.
This continues the positive trend in the latter half of 2013, though it was down from the November figure of six per cent. Capacity grew by 3.6 per cent, taking load factor down 0.8 percentage points on a year ago, to 46.3 per cent.
Asia-Pacific carriers saw freight volumes fall 0.3 per cent in December, and declined 1.0 per cent for 2013 as a whole, compared to 2012.
European airlines reported cargo growth of 2.9 per cent in December and 1.8 per cent for the whole of 2013.
North American carriers' air freight volumes contracted 0.5 per cent in December and fell by 0.4 per cent for the whole of 2013.
Latin American airlines' freight volumes fell 5.0 per cent in December, but for 2013 as a whole, increased by 2.4 per cent. This is a slower pace of growth than in 2012, largely reflecting sluggish growth in Brazil. However, there have been signs of a steady pick-up since the third quarter of the year.
African airlines saw their freight volumes rise 1.7 per cent in December and grow 1.0 per cent for 2013 overall.