Container trade booms as firms dodge China quotas

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2006, 12:00am

The port's main terminals in Kwai Chung handled their highest number of containers in more than three years last month as cargo owners increasingly used Hong Kong as a relay point for shipments to western consumer markets.

Textile exports in the past four months exceeded those from southern China for the first time as owners subverted quota restrictions on mainland products in the United States and Europe by shipping through Hong Kong.

A higher proportion of trans-shipment cargo drove up throughput 13.1 per cent last month at the main terminals where operators handled 1.34 million teu (20-ft equivalent units).

Total volume, which included contributions from the river trades and the mid-stream where most cargo is moved via barge, grew 12.5 per cent to 2.02 million teu.

However, as transshipment is counted at least twice - on and off the dock - it can give the illusion of revenue growth for operators when actually their margins have been falling for the past four years.

Direct cargo, the highest value sector of maritime trade, mostly delivered to the terminals by truck, still comprised a smaller portion of the overall throughput last month, said a port executive.

It is estimated more than 60 per cent of the port's business will be transshipment cargo this year against 20 per cent just four years ago, shrinking its contribution to the greater economy.