16 Jul Latest volume tumble at Hong Kong port highlights steady traffic decline
Hong Kong’s container throughput fell 10.5 percent in the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period last year, continuing a steady decline that has seen the terminals registering volume declines every month since July 2014.
The container terminals, mid stream and river trade volume registered 9.16 million TEU from January to June, with June volume dropping 8.6 percent to 1.6 million TEU. While river trade and the mid stream contribute to Hong Kong’s throughput, most of the city’s volume is from the container terminals at Kwai Chung that handled 7.24 million boxes in the first six months, 9.2 percent down year-on-year.
First half volume at the world’s second busiest container port of Singapore were also down, falling 5 percent to 15.9 million TEU. June volume recorded a flat 0.8 percent growth, although that was down 2.6 percent from the boxes tallied in May.
A large part of Hong Kong’s port decline can be laid at the unwillingness of the government to address its failings over more than a decade — insufficient back-up land at the terminals, cost and delays of bringing containers across the border from China factories, inability of Chinese truckers to drive in Hong Kong — with container lines’ unwillingness to reduce terminal handling charges making the port more expensive than the Shenzhen alternatives.
The Hong Kong government is finally taking measures to increase back up land at the terminal and is providing additional barge berths, but the measures come far too late to stop what appears to be a slow but terminal decline.
In a bid to address the many challenges, the old Maritime Industry Council and the Port Development Counci have combined to form the Hong Kong Maritime & Port Board that will be chaired by the Secretary for Transport and Housing. It is a step in the right direction, although the insistence of including the housing portfolio with transport continues to baffle the industry.