HK and Shenzhen ports lag rivals on throughput growth
Toh Han Shih
Mainland ports continued to report double-digit growth in container throughput last month, but the ports of Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta have yet to return to pre-crisis levels.
The container throughput of mainland ports rose 24 per cent from May last year to 11.7 million 20-foot equivalent units (teu), the Ministry of Transport said on its website.
Ningbo, the fourth-largest port, posted its highest-ever container throughput at 1.22 million teu, a 51.4 per cent year-on-year rise, according to the port's authorities. Ningbo's container exports soared 35 per cent to 480,000 teu last month.
Ningbo Port, the company operating the Yangtze River Delta port, has applied to list in Shanghai and hopes to list in Hong Kong.
The year-on-year growth of container throughput of Shanghai, the world's second-busiest container port behind Singapore, was more than 20 per cent last month, Citi analyst Ally Ma said. 'China's port throughput remained very strong in May, suggesting continued strength in exports.'
After suffering falling throughput for most of last year because of the global financial crisis, the container throughput at Hong Kong and mainland ports has been posting double-digit growth since January.
'Hong Kong and Shenzhen's throughput has not reached pre-crisis levels. We are not doing very well. Despite the high growth rate, Hong Kong has not reached its 2007 level,' said Sunny Ho Lap-kee, an executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council.
For the first four months of this year, container throughput in Hong Kong, the world's third-largest container port, reached 7.3 million teu, according to a Hong Kong Port Development Council estimate. This is 14.8 per cent higher than in the same period last year, but 7.1 per cent lower than 2008 and 1.5 per cent less than 2007.
Container throughput for Shenzhen, the second-biggest mainland port behind Shanghai, was 6.6 million teu in the first four months of this year, according to official Shenzhen data. This is 27.1 per cent higher than in the same period last year, but 0.7 per cent lower than 2008 and 7.6 per cent higher than 2007.
However, Hong Kong's airfreight fared better than its container shipping during the first four months of this year, Ho said.
Hong Kong airport saw airfreight throughput of 1.26 million tonnes in the four months, which was 34.9 per cent higher than in the year-ago period, 5.4 per cent more than 2008 and 13.7 per cent higher than 2007.
One reason why Hong Kong's airfreight has done better than its container throughput is the strong demand in the US and Europe for electronic goods, timepieces and valuable goods, which are transported by air, while demand for basic consumer goods such as toys, clothing and shoes, which are mostly transported by sea, has been weaker, Ho said.
This indicates that during the crisis in the US and Europe, the rich continued to buy valuable items while the poor and unemployed were cutting back on the purchase of basic goods such as shoes and clothes, he said.
In the first four months of the year, Hong Kong container throughput grew: 14.8%