Hong Kong set to lose No 3 port rank to Shenzhen

Data indicates Shenzhen will this year become world's third-busiest container port

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 2:28am

Shenzhen is set to overtake Hong Kong as the world's third-busiest container port this year for the first time ever on an annual basis.

This comes as total box volumes through Shenzhen's four main facilities have continued to climb despite the downturn in global trade.

By comparison, volumes through Hong Kong have dropped, especially from river trade and barge business.

Hong Kong is set to handle about 23.2 million teu (20-foot equivalent units) this year, according to Post estimates based on throughput figures between January and October. The full-year estimates take into account the expected slack trade season in November and December.

Industry observers supported the estimates. Jon Windham, head of the Asian industrials equity research at Barclays in Hong Kong, forecast the port would handle 23.5 million teu in 2012. By comparison he thought Shenzhen would pull past Hong Kong to handle 25 million teu.

Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council, added: "Your calculation might be right. [The] forecast is far from good."

Alan Lee Yiu-kwong, head of the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association, said: "Yes, we are losing out". He said Shenzhen would certainly overtake Hong Kong next year if it failed to do so this year.

Lee pointed out that Hong Kong had technically lost the No 3 spot for several years because 60 per cent of Hong Kong's container volumes is transshipment cargo. As a result each container is counted twice.

He said container traffic through Shenzhen, Guangzhou and other south China ports are "practically all direct shipments". This meant each container is only counted once.

Latest figures from the Port Development Council show Hong Kong handled 19.4 million teu in the first 10 months of 2012, down 4.4 per cent compared with the same period last year.

While container volumes grew by a marginal 0.8 per cent to 14.6 million teu at the nine Kwai Chung container terminals between January and October, throughput slumped 17.2 per cent to 4.8 million teu at facilities outside Kwai Chung.

Windham forecast that Shanghai would remain the world's top container port this year, handling 34.9 million teu. Singapore would be in the No 2 spot with 31.6 million teu.