Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

How much benefit does HK derive from its airport's cargo throughput?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 June, 2011, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Airport Authority fervently wants to build a third runway, with an estimated cost that comes to an enormous amount of money.

Its proposal warrants close examination by all concerned, especially those whose backyard is in Tung Chung or Tuen Mun, or downwind from the airport's construction dust, engine noise and aircraft pollution.

Our environment and breathing space are already seriously endangered by the imminent construction of the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau supermarine highway and a bridge connecting it and the airport to the New Territories.

We need to review how much of the authority's projected increase in airport traffic will be accounted for by cargo flights.

One company alone, Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals, boasted a new daily record on April 23, clearing more than 10,000 tonnes for the first time.

Its press release noted that exports accounted for 55 per cent of the throughput, the rest being imports and transshipments.

Can the airport authority advise how much of the airport's cargo traffic represents goods produced, or provided with extensive added value, in Hong Kong? I suspect much, if not most, of the so-called 'exports' are goods produced on the mainland and trucked down to Hong Kong for air shipment, as are the 'imports' in reverse.

Similarly, much of the traffic on the two massive new bridges will consist of further truckloads and containers full of mainland goods and a few coachloads of mainland tourists.

In a rational national economy, much of that non-productive (to Hong Kong) shipment of mainland goods and people would be routed through suitably equipped airports in Guangdong.

If it were, then the two bridges would also be white elephants and a waste of infrastructure funds.

Does Hong Kong earn enough financially, in net terms, from being a shipment centre for the mainland to justify this environmental degradation and financial burden? The Hong Kong government's real return on investment is probably negative.

Hongkongers need to insist on objective impact assessments of the air cargo industry's long-term effects on our lives, Hong Kong's financial stability and the city's value as a place worth living in.

Barry Girling, Tung Chung