Can Hong Kong Keep its Business?


Annual container volumes at the Port of Hong Kong have fallen below 20 million TEU for the first time in 13 years despite a 14.3% rise in throughput to 1.8m TEU to produce the best monthly growth of the year in December.

The port saw an annual volumes fall 2.5% to 19.6m TEU for 2016, nearly reaching 2002 levels of 19.1 million TEU.

Hong Kong handled 20.1 million TEUs in 2015, making it one of the world’s busiest container ports.

However, a 14.3% increase for last month (December 2016) on the 1.577 million TEU handled in December 2015 may signal a TEU recovery for 2017.

The Kwai Tsing container terminals, located in the north-western part of the harbour, have nine container terminals with 24 berths of about 8,500 metres of deep water frontage, including container yards and container freight stations covering 279 hectares. It has a total handling capacity of over 20 million TEUs a year which helps maintain Hong Kong as a major port of Southern China.

But 2016 saw the Kwai Tsing container terminals drop 2.4% in TEU compared to 15.57 million in 2015. However, in December 2016, the Kwai Tsing terminals handled 1.402 million TEU, 12.7% more than 1.245 million TEU handled at the terminals in December 2015.

This could be a sign of change being brought about by Hong Kong International Terminals Limited (HIT), COSCO-HIT Terminals (Hong Kong) Limited (CHT) and Asia Container Terminals Limited (ACT), as last month (December 2016), the companies made a move to sustain Hong Kong’s position as a leading transshipment hub in the region.

The formal collaboration for the efficient co-management and operation of 16 berths across Terminals 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 — together the 'Combined Terminals' — at Kwai Tsing, has been in response to the changing dynamics of the global shipping industry, which has seen the emergence of new strategic alliances between shipping lines. 

The three companies believe that the Combined Terminals collaboration will allow for the most effective use of facilities and manpower resources. 

The arrangement is aslo creating additional capacity by increasing flexibility in berth and yard planning among all three terminals, with the improvements allowing the Combined Terminals to better accommodate the need of shipping alliances for enhanced service and increase the overall competitiveness.

Hong Kong-based Cosco Shipping Ports recently saw a decline in its profits, announcing in October 2016 that Q3 stood at US$43.9 million, a drop of 52% from $91.5 million the previous year. It blamed this on poor global economic performance, particularly from Chinese exports.

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