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Hong Kong housing

Flats above container port could ease housing shortage, Hong Kong engineers say amid government scepticism

Group points out Kwai Tsing terminal could house nine Taikoo Shing estates in proposal being considered by task force

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 10:28pm

Building flats above one of the world’s busiest container terminals would be a feasible long-term solution to the housing shortage in Hong Kong, a group of experts said on Wednesday, even as the government argued that such a move would be “extremely costly and technically formidable”.

Three veteran engineers, including a former development chief, estimated that “tens of thousands” of residents could live on top of the Kwai Tsing container terminal.

The site could be as large as nine Taikoo Shing or 16 Mei Foo Sun Chuen housing estates based on land area. Taikoo Shing, which has a lower population density, has around 36,000 residents while Mei Foo Sun Chuen has about 39,000.

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“This proposal is technically and structurally feasible. The concept is not really any different from building housing on top of MTR stations or train depots, which Hong Kong already has plenty of experience with,” former development minister Mak Chai-kwong said.

Mak was referring to developments such as Telford Gardens, a private housing estate in Kowloon Bay, which is built on top of the city’s largest MTR depot.

Under the group’s suggestion, private and public flats could be built on top of a 50 to 60-metre (164 to 197 feet) high concrete deck, which would cover some 200 hectares (494 acres) of container storage area.

Mobile cranes used for transporting and stacking containers could be replaced by cranes attached to tracks below the concrete podium.

The idea to build homes on an elevated platform above the port is also among 14 other land supply options considered by the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply.

The task force, which discussed the plan last November, as well as another option to relocate the Kwai Tsing container terminal, said they were open to both proposals but there was insufficient information to determine feasibility.

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Hong Kong’s port is the fifth biggest in the world, with Kwai Tsing container terminal handling up to 80 per cent of the city’s total container throughput of about 20 million units a year.

The government said in a paper to the task force that a housing development above a port would be “extremely costly and technically formidable”.

It cited a number of challenges, such as making sure the terminal’s 24-hour operations would not be affected, and raised questions as to whether existing transport networks could support a big influx of residents in the area.

Former president of the Institution of Engineers, Dr Joseph Chow Ming-kuen, who first proposed the idea last year, said it would not involve any additional costs as construction methods would be “more or less similar” to other residential developments.

Chow also said it would be less time-consuming than relocating the entire terminal, which could take at least 15 years.

“I can’t see how it would take longer than relocating the terminal. Any relocation would most likely require reclamation, and then they have to build an entirely new terminal and port facilities there,” Chow said.