Hong Kong loses million TEU as mainland re-orders Pearl River Delta

HONG KONG's container volumes fell by over a million TEU in 2019, or by 6

22 January 2020 - 19:00

HONG KONG's container volumes fell by over a million TEU in 2019, or by 6.3 per cent, to 18.36 million TEU, landing the port in eighth place in global rankings, according to the Hong Kong Marine Department.

Shanghai maintained its top position with a 3.1 per cent increase in volumes, to 43.3 million TEU and second-place Singapore's volumes increased 1.6 per cent, to 37.2 million TEU. Meanwhile Qingdao was up 8.7 per cent to 21 million TEU.

Hong Kong Shippers Council executive director Sunny Ho, executive director said Hong Kong was the only one in the top 10 with negative growth last year - 'although the growth of Shenzhen, Singapore and Busan were far from impressive.'

Mr Ho said the changing manufacturing landscape of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) was a key factor impacting Hong Kong's performance.

'The PRD is undergoing a transformation,' he said. 'For example, while Shenzhen and Guangzhou are now leading IT centres, not only in mainland China but on a global scale, traditional labour-intensive and low-value manufacturing activities in the delta are fading.'

It was a trend that started back in 2005, said Mr Ho, and the US-China trade war had accelerated the shift.

'The diversification of manufacturing facilities from the PRD to the ASEAN region, especially Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and South Asia, and even Africa, is expected to continue this year and beyond.'

Furthermore, he said, while most of Hong Kong's throughput was transshipment cargo, a large portion of it consisted of 'river-to-ocean' transshipments originating from the western region of the PRD.

'These cargoes are, essentially, export cargo from the PRD, except that they are carried by river vessels instead of trucks,' he said.

'Hong Kong shippers are of course concerned about connectivity and capacity available, but with a throughput exceeding 18 million TEU, the port is still one of the busiest in the world. The biggest impact is to the container terminal operators, their subcontractors and, to some extent, the shipping and freight forwarding industries.'

The city's competing terminal operators - HIT (Hongkong International Terminals), COSCO-HIT, Asia Container Terminals and Modern Terminals - banded together last January to form the Hong Kong Seaport Alliance (HKSPA), noted London's Loadstar. Since then, the HKSPA has announced a number of efficiency gains, including improving barge turnaround times and reducing inter-terminal truck transfers by over one-third.


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