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.