Reduced charges lift HK port business

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 12:00am

A full month of build-up to the Lunar New Year helped Hong Kong's main terminal operators get off to a strong start this year as reduced handling charges continued to attract more of South China's relay cargo to their docks.

The total South China deep-sea cargo market expanded a comparative 26 per cent last month to 2.3 million teu (20-ft equivalent units), with operators in Kwai Chung handling just over half of the volume, or 1.17 million teu - 16.7 per cent more than last year.

'The timing of Chinese New Year this year gave us more time to move cargo,' said Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers Council. 'The rush was pretty much across the board. There was also a 20 per cent growth in airfreight.'

Hong Kong port overall saw its volume reach 1.85 million teu, up 7.8 per cent year on year. However, January's growth was inflated by last year's low base comparison when business at the main terminals shrank in the first quarter.

'The first three or four months last year were pretty slow for us so we anticipate that the port's overall growth will slow in the second quarter when we begin comparing with stronger numbers from last year,' said Erik Bogh Christensen, managing director for Modern Terminals (MTL), the No2 operator.

In the second quarter of last year, operators such as MTL and Hongkong International Terminals cut container handling charges for transshipment cargo in a bid to boost lagging volumes. The move siphoned cargo away from Shenzhen ports, but intensified competition between the main terminals and mid-stream community.

Cargo handled outside the main terminals last month shrank a comparative 4.7 per cent, to 687,000 teu.