EDI to ease rapid rise in agents costs
SHIPPING agents in Hongkong should turn to EDI (electronic data interchange) and automation to control increasing operating costs to help them survive, says the Hongkong Liner Shipping Association.
Mr Terence Sit, who was re-elected 1993 chairman at the association's general meeting on Tuesday, said the agents, who were facing a rapid increase in the volume of business, were finding it increasingly expensive to recruit skilled staff who demanded high salaries.
''We are concerned that the EDI development in Hongkong is on a piecemeal basis and is not progressing at a pace as we would wish to see,'' Mr Sit said.
The industry must push ahead in this area to reduce its costs and numbers, he said.
The Hongkong Government is to invest US$15 million in Tradelink Electronic Document Services Ltd, the company that is to establish a Community Electronic Trading Service (CETS) in the territory.
Acting Secretary for Trade & Industry Ms Denise Yue Chung-yee and Mr Anthony Charter, chairman of Tradelink - a partnership of 11 leading trade-related organisations in Hongkong formed to promote the use of EDI in the territory - signed an agreement in November to forge the partnership.
A Government spokesman confirmed that the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group had approved the project which would straddle 1997 when Hongkong reverts to Chinese rule.
Shippers using computers for data processing would be able to acquire EDI capabilities at a minimal cost by installing additional software.
A pilot EDI scheme was expected to be operational next year with limited participants with in-house EDI capability processing their documents.
The community EDI system, initially to process only RTEL (Restricted Textile Export Licence) documents and trade declarations initially, was expected to attract 130 end-users in the first year, increasing to 150,000 by 2000.
Mr Charter said more than 30 software and systems vendors had submitted expressions of interest for the project.
Mr Sit said shipping agents were also victims of double-digit inflation as charges involving terminals, port and pilotage had risen by about 10 per cent yearly putting great pressure on them.
''The income per unit, per container increase per year is decreasing compared to what agents received 10 years ago,'' he said.
Hongkong had not felt the strong impact of the recession as in other countries because of the strong movement of goods to the territory from southern China, he added.
Last year had been a good year for Hongkong port which had seen a significant rise in container throughput compared to 1991, he said.
''We feel the trend will continue this year as south China grows as a production centre and consumer base,'' he added.