Fourth-quarter surge lifts port volume to record

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 12:00am

A fourth-quarter surge of goods from Guangdong province and booming intra-Asia trade lifted overall business at Hong Kong's port to record volumes last year.

According to final data released yesterday by Census and Statistics (Censtat), Hong Kong handled 19.14 million teu (20-ft equivalent units) across all modes of maritime container transport, the first port to break the 19-million-box barrier.

The charge was led by the river trade, with more than 5.23 million teu flowing into and out of the burgeoning Pearl River Delta manufacturing heartland.

The sector grew a comparative 12 per cent, driven by a 32 per cent jump in inward transshipment as raw materials flooded into the delta to fuel the factories' voracious appetites. Fourth-quarter volumes reached 1.38 million teu, up 26 per cent.

Seaborne trade - that not linked to the river trade - grew 6 per cent to 13.9 million teu. Midstream trade - goods bound for international locations but not handled at the main terminals at Kwai Chung - showed the healthiest growth within the sector, expanding about 14 per cent, according to midstream sources.

'The intra-Asia trade was booming last year and we were the main beneficiaries of that,' a midstream operator said. 'If we can judge this year on the first two months so far, things are looking very positive again.'

The main terminals also report impressive growth in throughput over the first two months. Boxes moving across their docks jumped 14.8 per cent year on year, reaching 1.8 million teu, the Port & Maritime Board said. 'Trade from South China continues to show strong momentum,' a board official said.

Overall, outward boxes continued to outstrip incoming last year, a trend which has been reflected on the transpacific routes where the United States' trade deficit with China has reached record proportions. Exports, including domestic and re-exports, made up about 64 per cent of the port's throughput last year.

Exports to Taiwan, South Korea and Canada grew most dramatically, the latter due to shippers finding alternate gateways in the fall for US-bound goods during the 11-day port lockout.