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Making 2002 a successful and rewarding year

Willy Lin

There are two important tasks for the Hong Kong Shippers' Council in 2002.

One of them is to assist the sharpening of the competitiveness of Hong Kong as a shipping, airfreight and logistics centre. The Council believes that only when Hong Kong maintains its leading position that Hong Kong shippers could have the best services and selection of service providers. To achieve this objective, it is imperative to lower the costs of routing cargo through Hong Kong and operating costs in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong shippers are happy to see that haulage costs have been reduced over the last few years. It was achieved through improvements in the highway systems in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, in boundary crossing facilities, in PRC Customs reforms, container terminals' productivity, open competition among the trucking operators and increased use of river trade transportations. The Hong Kong Shippers' Council will continue to support all future initiatives in further lowering the cost.

Among these initiatives, we could cite the Government's efforts to further expand the existing boundary crossing infrastructures, the forthcoming Western Corridor, the e-manifest proposal, the IT architecture that facilitates interfacing among various players in the industry; as well as private sector's attempts to achieve paperless transactions for container handling, to reduce the wastage brought by haulage of empty containers across the boundary, etc. The Council would also appeal to eliminate all artificial costs such as the boundary crossing license fee.

Yet efforts are required to make the industry even more competitive. The existing structure of the industry is such that operators could collaborate and dictate price. The most notorious example is shipping lines' Terminal Handling Charges. Hong Kong shippers are paying the world's highest THCs. While other expenses are coming down, shipping lines still refuse to lower their THC levels. Another example would be the Mid-stream Fee levied by the mid-stream operators. Ignoring objections from almost all sectors in the community, mid-stream operators are forcing their way through by penalizing the non-payers. In addition, the Council does not consider that there is sufficient competition among the container terminal operators. According to the latest survey carried out by the Marine Department, Hong Kong terminal costs are among the highest in the world and, in the region, higher than main competitors Tokyo, Singapore, Pusan, Shanghai and Kaohsiung. These high costs would diminish the efforts of Government to build Hong Kong up as a regional hub.

Another major task for the Council is to help develop the logistics industry in Hong Kong to give higher value-added to users, i.e. shippers and operators routing cargo through Hong Kong. In this aspect, Hong Kong is indeed running against time. Almost all cities in the region are in a race to develop their facilities into logistic hubs. However, not all of them could succeed because the region simply could not support that many hubs. The Council would devote its efforts to achieving the objective of developing Hong Kong into a global and regional logistic hub. The Council supports the work of the Logistic Development Council, that includes all the important areas of physical and regulatory infrastructure; cyber and IT infrastructure; human resources; marketing and promotion; and support to SMEs. I myself have been appointed Shepherd of the H-logistics Working Group. It will be the Council's and my common objective to make sure that the logistics industry attracts the right batch of people; that educational institutes produce graduates possessing the quality and knowledge required by the industry; that professionals get the proper accreditation; and that there be adequate continuing educational opportunities for those employed in the logistics industry.

2002 will be a challenging year. Let's cheer up and make 2002 a successful and rewarding year.