Urgent call to future-proof Hong Kong port amid rising competition

Hong Kong: In a joint announcement today, container terminal operators and shipping lines, represented by the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association (HKCTOA) and the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association (HKLSA) respectively, urged the Hong Kong Government to expedite the implementation of land use rationalization in Kwai Tsing Container Port and provide urgent policy support needed to maintain the city’s world-class port status against the backdrop of rising competition and a changing landscape in the container shipping industry.  

“It is imperative that the port’s capability to facilitate the efficient and prompt movement of cargo is enhanced in order to address the current congestion problems that have already reached a critical stage,” the associations said in a joint release. The government must quickly make clear policy decisions in order to provide the much needed permanent additional land for container handling facilities adjacent to existing ship berths, the pair urged. 

Highlighted in a White Paper developed by the HKCTOA are concrete recommendations which include the optimal use of the existing land sites immediately adjacent to the port for container storage and constructing additional barge berths.  The industry requires an additional 70 hectares of land to be integrated with the existing container terminals to create a Kwai Tsing Port Zone. The port zone will support the port’s operational needs until 2030, the pair claimed.  

At an industry stakeholder luncheon held on 25 September 2014, Jessie Chung, Chairperson of the HKCTOA, said: “Following the Chief Executive’s 2014 Policy Address confirming the Government’s support to improve port facilities and enhance the efficiency of port operations, the required policy initiatives include recognizing the need to rationalize and increase the utilization of the existing terminal and back-up facilities to enhance port efficiency and improve the competitiveness of the Port.  In order to realize these pledges, we deem it necessary to have coordinated support across Government bureaus and departments.  We therefore urge the Government to quickly implement a holistic port zone land policy in a coordinated manner.”

The HKLSA also supports the call for a holistic approach to a port zone land policy and at the luncheon event. Tony Tong, Vice Chairman of the HKLSA, stated: “We want to see the Port of Hong Kong bring its efficiency and productivity levels back up, allowing shipping companies to continue providing the quality and competitive services expected by the customers.  Given the strong barge volumes and transshipments in the region, we need sufficient land and berthing facilities to allow for effective barge-vessel arrangements and smooth inter-terminal trucking flow to meet the vast number of cargo consolidation activities between shipping alliance carriers at the Port.  The absence of such a port zone land policy is one of the major reasons why port congestion continues to be a big challenge today.”

The industry is also calling for the amendment of the licensing system to address the shortage of truck drivers at the port.  “The Port of Hong Kong is in serious need of more internal container truck drivers as 59% of the existing ones are nearing retirement age,” remarked Chung.  “The complicated licensing application requirements must be changed to help address the shortage of truck drivers by offering flexibility and training support to the applicants. The HKCTOA has been in dialogue with the Government and we look forward to our joint efforts to quickly move this agenda forward to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a leading international maritime center.”  [25/09/14]

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