Shenzhen expected to overtake the city by next year
Shanghai has overtaken Hong Kong as the world's second-busiest port behind Singapore, according to first-quarter throughput figures released by the Hong Kong Port Development Council, marking another drop down the rankings for the former No1.
The mainland port outstripped Hong Kong by 380,000 20-foot equivalent units (teu) in the first three months and is expected by analysts to remain ahead at the end of the year.
Hong Kong lost its position as the world's busiest port in 2005, when it was overtaken by Singapore. Within two years, the city has slipped behind Shanghai and is poised to fall further, with fast-growing Shenzhen port expected to overtake it next year.
'It won't take long. Shenzhen will outstrip Hong Kong as the third-largest port next year,' said Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council.
Hong Kong port, including container terminals at Kwai Tsing, the river terminal and mid-stream services, handled 5.5 million teu in the first quarter, up 2.3 per cent over the same period last year. Shanghai moved 5.88 million teu, up 28 per cent. Shenzhen throughput rose 8.2 per cent to 4.26 million teu.
Throughput at Hong Kong declined 8.8 per cent last month after 5.4 per cent growth in January and a 14.2 per cent increase in February. Shenzhen also had mild growth last month.
Mr Ho attributed the slow growth at the start of the year to seasonal effects related to the Lunar New Year, which this year extended to March.
Hong Kong is being overtaken by mainland ports as the city's industrial plants have moved across the border and further up the Pearl River Delta, where exporters are increasingly choosing Shenzhen as their port of call.
In 1994, Hongkong International Terminals, the largest port operator in Hong Kong, started building a container terminal in Yantian to capitalise on the movement of shipments to Shenzhen.
Shanghai was a different story, said a transport analyst. The city is at the helm of the Yangtze River economic zone and cashing in on the economic growth of the region. The Shanghai government pressed hard to make the city the largest port in the world, let alone China, by constructing the 18 billion yuan Yangshan Port.
The local government has also introduced concessions and government instructions to divert shipments to Yangshan.
Relay handling charges for cargo containers moving to and from locations in the Yangtze River delta were cut 53 per cent and shuttle rates between Shanghai's older port at Waigaoqiao and Yangshan were lowered in May last year to 150 yuan from 350 yuan per teu.
After implementation of the measures and an order that Europe-Asia trade be reallocated to Yangshan from Waigaoqiao, Yangshan handled a remarkable 3.25 million teu throughput in its full-year of operation last year.
A second phase of the port, which went on stream in December, will add four more berths by next year.
Shanghai International Port Group, the main operator in Shanghai, is looking to its hinterland along the Yangtze River to lengthen its catchment area, reaching as far as Wuhan, in Hubei province.
As for Hong Kong, the problems of the terminal business have been addressed by the industry for years but the city's government has yet to implement effective measures to stem the damage.
A proposed bridge linking Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai has yet to be decided on, as has the construction of Container Terminal 10.