Hong Kong: It is imperative for the government to urgently provide additional back-up land and barge berths for the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals in order to safeguard Hong Kong Port’s competitiveness, Jessie Chung, chairman of the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators’ Association (HKCTOA) said at a luncheon today. This is not the first time HKCTOA has called for this, but the plea comes as port throughput figures suffer some of their worst numbers ever.
“Hong Kong’s container terminal industry is on the verge of a watershed moment as there is a real risk of our falling further in the world ranking among leading ports. To maintain Hong Kong’s competitiveness, the terminal operators at Kwai Tsing Port have been making substantial investments in capability and productivity enhancements. Yet, to turn the tide of slipping competitiveness, we urgently need the Hong Kong government’s support in the area of land policy,” she said.
The call for government’s support in land policy came amidst two key trends in the container transport industry — the growing deployment of mega container vessels and increasing reliance on barge-transported transhipment – both of which have greatly undermined the handling capacity of the port.
Transhipment volumes handled at the Kwai Tsing terminals, including both vessel-to-vessel and barge-to-vessel throughput, has increased 66.3% in the past 10 years. In 2014, transhipment volumes accounted for 72.9% of the annual throughput at Kwai Tsing.
In terms of barge volume, there was an increase of over 32% in the past ten years, which has translated into much longer waiting time. The lowest average barge waiting time in 2008 was about two hours; now it can take more than two days for service during peak periods. The barge traffic also has a knock-on effect on waiting time for container vessels, which has gone up from one hour to as many as some 20 hours during congested periods, a remarkable transformation from just over a decade ago when the quays at the port were the most productive in the world.