Dredging to make way for mega ships

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am

Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, the world's third-busiest port, is to carry out a massive dredging operation to accommodate a new generation of mega vessels, a senior official from the Transport and Housing Bureau said yesterday.

But the proposed four-year timetable is a major disappointment for some shipping lines that have taken delivery of huge new vessels with a capacity to carry 13,000 20-foot containers.

The dredging, which will not be completed until 2012, will deepen the channel, as well as the basin, to 17 metres from 15.5 metres.

'Currently, a 13,000 teu [20-foot equivalent unit] vessel, with a draft of 16 metres, can't get access to the berth at Kwai Tsing unless it waits for the tides,' Peter Ng, general manager for CMA CGM & ANL (Hong Kong), said yesterday.

'It will cause trouble for the shipping companies and some of the shipments would leave Hong Kong.'

They were likely to go to Nansha port at the mouth of the Pearl River, which was planning to dredge its sea basin to 19 metres from 15 metres in three years, Zheng Tianxiang, Sun Yat-san University professor, said yesterday.

Janice Tse Siu-wa, deputy secretary for transport and housing, said: 'We have to conduct a technical feasibility study and an environmental impact assessment before the dredging project can take place. It [2012] is not too late as we can still accommodate most of the container ships.'

An industry veteran said every additional centimetre of water depth translated into 240 tonnes of added shipments a year. The Hong Kong government will pay for the dredging of the channel leading to the port, while port operators will pay for dredging in front of the terminals.

'We should do the dredging as soon as possible,' said Alan Lee Yiu-kwong, chairman of the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association. 'Or else shipping lines will speed up to reshuffle their vessels to Yantian or other ports in Shenzhen.'