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Outlook for Hong Kong port's container throughput

by Alex Fong
Mr. Alex Fong has been a Deputy Secretary in the Government Secretariat since 1995. He is currently a Deputy Secretary for Economic Services. He is also the Secretary of the Hong Kong Port and Maritime Board, with responsibility for port development as well as maritime and logistics services. Before this posting, he was a Deputy Secretary for Transport and a Deputy Secretary for Security. Other previous posts included Director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York and District Officer of Kowloon City District.

After a buoyant growth of 11.6% to 18.1 million TEU in 2000, the container throughput of Hong Kong port in first three quarters of 2001 registered no growth.

The slowdown of Hong Kong port's throughput growth is attributable to the downturn of the world economy since the latter part of 2000. This was mainly led by a setback in the US economy, with weakened consumption, slackened investment and falling exports. The situation was further worsened by the 9-11 terrorist attack on the US. As a result, international trade in the region in 2001 lost much of its momentum.

It is expected that the Hong Kong port's total container throughput in 2001 will be slightly lower than the 2000 level, but it should not be too far off from 18 million TEU. We expect to see Hong Kong maintaining the position of being the world's busiest container port for 2001.

Looking ahead, on the demand side, we believe the cargo base of the Pearl River Delta (the prime cargo catchment area of Hong Kong) will continue to grow, fuelled by an anticipated increase in world trade and foreign direct investment generated by a more open China economy after its accession to the WTO, leading to increased imports and exports from China. When the US economy picks up, Hong Kong is likely to be a beneficiary in terms of growth in trade and cargo volume.

On the supply side, Container Terminal 9 is under construction and will be in place by phases between 2002 to 2004. We have just completed the Port Development Strategy Review 2001, which shows that our present container terminal facilities will be able to meet requirements up to the end of this decade. We will be carrying out a study this year to map out a master plan and competitive strategy for our future port development post CT9.