Call for cut in operator numbers at Kwai Chung
Arrival of ultra-large container ships means rationalisation will be needed at Kwai Chung says Hutchison Port executive to conference
The number of port operators at Kwai Chung container terminal should be reduced if Hong Kong port is to maintain its operating efficiencies after the introduction of ultra-large container ships, a senior Hutchison executive said yesterday.
Eric Ip, the deputy managing director of Hutchison Port Holdings, said having five terminal operators at Kwai Chung was "a bit old fashioned", especially as several operators only had one or two berths each.
Container ships have increased in size in recent years, requiring more quay length and berthing space, Ip told delegates at the Asian Logistics and Maritime conference in Wan Chai. .
A 5,000 teu (20-foot equivalent) box ship, which was the biggest of its type several years ago, took up about 250 metres of quay when berthed and required 300 metres to manoeuvre while berthing and leaving the quay.
But Maersk will introduce 18,000 teu containerships from next year that will take up 400 metres of quay and require 500 metres to manoeuvre.
Several container lines, including Orient Overseas Container Lines and Cosco Container Lines, have in service or on order slightly smaller vessels of 13,000 to 14,000 teu but which still require 350 to 400 metres of quay each.
DP World-NWS controls container terminal 3, which has a single 305-metre berth. DP World is also the majority owner of Asia Container Terminal, which operates two berths with a combined length of 740 metres at container terminal Eight West, while Cosco-HIT has two berths totalling 640 metres at container terminal Eight East.
Ip said there was a need for "a certain rationalisation in Hong Kong port". The new ships were so big they could not call at all ports and there would be an increase in transshipment cargo from smaller Asian ports to hubs such as Hong Kong. "Hong Kong has the best location and the best platform," he said.
Alan Lee Yiu-kwong, head of the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association whose five members operate the nine terminals at Kwai Chung port, asked for his reaction to Ip's rationalisation plan, said: "This is the first time I've heard about it."
Ip also questioned who benefited from the use of ultra-large box ships, pointing out that they posed a challenge for shipping lines and terminal operators, which need to invest in strengthening existing berths or building new infrastructure.
Shipping stocks tumbled in Hong Kong yesterday. China Shipping Development, which specialises in transporting bulk cargoes including coal and oil, saw its share price crash 7 per cent to close at HK$4.10. Shares in China Shipping Container Lines fell 5.88 per cent to finish at HK$2.24 while China Cosco (Holdings) dived 5.7 per cent to end the day at HK$3.79.