Staff role viewed as vital for shipping hub

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 September, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong's future as an international shipping hub lies in its ability to provide staff for its various professional services in the industry, says Executive Councillor Leung Chun-ying.

Mr Leung, who is also a panellist for the 11th five-year plan summit and chairman of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services, called for more investment by the government in the education and training of local staff in services related to shipping. He cited shipping brokerage, insurance, loans and dispute mediation as the focus areas.

The rapid rise of large-scale, modern port facilities on the mainland has challenged the traditional strength of Hong Kong as a major port in the region. With nine container terminals and 24 berths, the city handled 22.6 million teus (20ft equivalent units) last year, second in the world behind Singapore. Shanghai and Shenzhen handled 19 and 16 million teus respectively, but both grew by 18 per cent, compared with Hong Kong's 2.8 per cent increase.

Since 2001, Hong Kong has seen its share of the southern China cargo throughput drop from 76.1 per cent to 47.7 per cent last year. China's 11th five-year plan adopted in March stated that maintaining Hong Kong's status as an international maritime and aviation centre was one of the national goals.

Stressing the need to pursue high value-added services, Mr Leung said: 'These are Hong Kong's strong points compared to, say, Shenzhen's.

'We need to start with education and training. This is clearly within the ambit of the government's work,' he said, citing the administration's bid to jump-start Hong Kong industrial development with the setting up of technical colleges in the 1970s and 80s.

John Liu, head of the Polytechnic University's department of logistics, agreed that government support was necessary.

'Hong Kong needs to provide this educational base.' he said.

Hong Kong had an advantage in that its competitive private port structures and its many existing maritime service companies provided good learning opportunities for students, Dr Liu said.