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Call for HK government to use land around city's port for housing

FACED with an acute shortage of land to help fix Hong Kong's housing problems and the port's reduced competitiveness, the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has warned that a decision will eventually be required on the future of the land around the international container port, which until 2004 has held the crown as the world's busiest

29 April 2021 - 19:00
FACED with an acute shortage of land to help fix Hong Kong's housing problems and the port's reduced competitiveness, the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has warned that a decision will eventually be required on the future of the land around the international container port, which until 2004 has held the crown as the world's busiest.

Ms Lam said the future of Hong Kong's international container port will have to be resolved sooner or later adding that the port was less competitive than other facilities in the Greater Bay Area, reports Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.



Speaking in reply to pressure on the government to commit the land in the port area to help tackle the city's housing woes, Ms Lam said there were no current plans to change the use of the site, describing the matter as sensitive and one that would require strategic planning.



'I am sure it would stir a backlash if the chief executive talks about future plans for the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals,' she said.



The call for the government to release the land for housing came from Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, of the New People's Party: 'Some industry insiders have said there is excess supply in the [terminal]. Hong Kong does not need that many container ports. Have you considered taking back the 300-hectare plot of land by the sea to build flats instead?'



Ms Lam accepted the city's ports were not as competitive as others in the Greater Bay Area, which is Beijing's ambitious plan to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province into a technological and economic powerhouse.



'There's a lack of land in Hong Kong, thus driving up our costs,' Ms Lam said. 'Mainland authorities have also been subsidising the [port] industry, which is something that is difficult to do in Hong Kong.'



She added that the problems have to be resolved sooner or later as it is not a good thing to see the industry continue to be weakened,' she said. 'Especially when land is the most valuable resource for us and is also the resource which we lack the most.'



The Kwai Tsing site - located in the northwestern part of the harbour with nine container terminals and 24 berths - has for several years been eyed for its potential to help ease the city's housing crisis.



Hong Kong was ranked the world's ninth-busiest port in 2020, according to the Marine Department. Last year, two other port cities in the Greater Bay Area - Shenzhen and Guangzhou - came fourth and fifth respectively.



Hong Kong Seaport Alliance said the port and logistics industry were an important economic pillar of Hong Kong, making significant contributions both to the economy and employment for decades. In 2019, the industry contributed 2.9 per cent - or HK$82.7 billion (US$10.65 billion) - of the city's gross domestic product, employing about 180,000 people, the alliance added.



'The high efficiency and flexibility as well as its free port status have been Hong Kong's competitive edges as an international maritime centre. All terminal operators in Hong Kong have been working hard to enhance the competitiveness of the port,' the alliance said.



Wong Yu-loy, organising coordinator of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, an affiliate of the city's Confederation of Trade Unions, said the efficiency levels of the local container terminals and the city's advanced legal services sector meant its facilities could not be replicated in other parts of the bay area.



'It could take dozens of years to build a mature container terminal popular among foreign businesses. Why doesn't the government resolve the housing problem by developing brownfield sites instead?' he said.



He warned the livelihoods of about 6,000 people working in the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals would be affected if the site was demolished.



The Port of Hong Kong's throughput dropped from 19.6 TEU in 2018, to 18 million TEU in 2020.


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