Modern Terminals, the port arm of Wharf and Hong Kong's second largest container terminal operator, says there is no need for a 10th terminal until at least 2018.
As global trade continued to slow in the second half of last year, Modern Terminals handled just 5.3 million teu (20-foot equivalent unit) at Kwai Chung Container Terminal last year, a slight year-on-year drop of 1.85 per cent. Managing director Benjamin Lai said although business has picked up in the past six weeks, he expects only a moderate single-digit growth this year.
'We don't have a clear picture at this point of where Hong Kong's port business is heading in the long run, but assuming a moderate growth in each of the next few years, our capacity would be sufficient to handle the demand at least until 2018.'
In 2008, the government said Hong Kong would need a 10th container terminal by 2015 to cope with growth in throughput. But it was not until early last year officials launched a feasibility study on the infrastructure. It was proposed the terminal would be located at southwestern Tsing Yi, but nothing has been heard since.
Modern Terminals now operates in busy seasons at about 80 per cent of its capacity of 7 million teu.
'Increase in throughput does not necessarily take up capacity in direct proportion. Over the years, we have raised our productivity through automation, and adding new facilities such as Wi-fi, in a bid to meet cargo growth with the same amount of capacity,' said Frankie Yick, a director at Wharf. 'Even when our capacity runs out, we'll still have a few back-up sites that could help boost our capacity by another million teu.'
According to the Port Development Council, the nine container terminals in Kwai Tsing handled 24.37 million teu last year, a growth of 2.8 per cent. Ports in Shenzhen, including the Modern Terminals-invested Da Chan Bay and Hutchison Whampoa's Yantian, handled 18.8 million teu in the first 10 months last year, a 0.1 per cent growth from a year ago.
Lai said the company was still looking for investment opportunities in ports around Bohai, in northeastern China.