Plan set in motion to become a logistics hub for western Guangdong
THE BOOM IN infrastructure spending and tourist arrivals will see construction materials and consumer goods moving into Macau like never before.
However, for the local logistics industry, handling this anticipated surge in imports is only part of a much bigger picture. Its aim, which has full government backing, is to position Macau as a centre of logistics expertise for western Guangdong.
Achieving this will involve using Macau's cargo facilities while integrating services and contending with competition throughout the south China region. For many years the development of logistics in the former Portuguese enclave was closely tied to the needs of the export-orientated textile and garment sector.
Goods, whether manufactured or finished in Macau, were mainly destined for buyers in Europe and the United States.
Traditionally, these were moved first by barge to Hong Kong for connection with international sea or air freight services.
For overall volume, movement via Hong Kong still remains the favoured route for imports and exports.
However, for sea freight, Macau companies now make increasing use of reliable road or barge links via alternative ports in Shenzhen, or those on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, such as Jiangmen and Zhongshan.
These options generally prove to be price competitive and have helped make Macau's container port, which began operating in 1991, the hub of an expanding barge and feeder vessel network in the region. Seaborne cargo reached a total of 94,457 teus (20-ft equivalent units) last year, a growth of 19 per cent over 2003.
The international airport, which was opened in 1995, is already recognised by air freight operators as offering an efficient alternative hub for access to the South China market.
Regular flights to mainland and regional destinations, now including Shanghai, Singapore and Seoul, have been added to the schedule.
According to government statistics, total air cargo handled last year amounted to 220,828 tonnes - a 56 per cent increase on 2003's figure of 141,000 tonnes, and partly attributable to the strong growth in outbound and transit shipments moving to Taiwan.
Multiple daily services offered by Air Macau, Eva Airways and Tranasia Airways provide cargo links to Taipei and Kaohsiung mainly for the key hi-tech and manufacturing industries based in southern China.
However, the unconfirmed but widely expected establishment of direct connections between mainland airports and Taiwan is sure to have a medium-term impact on this traffic.
'The mainland's policy is likely to change and, if routes to Taiwan are opened on a reciprocal basis, Guangzhou will almost certainly ask to be included,' an industry executive said.
However, new opportunities will undoubtedly emerge in the area.
In particular, the mainland's Go West initiative is pumping more investment into western Guangdong, creating industries, highways and a need for more logistics support.