Tradelink took the first giant step yesterday towards being awarded the contract to operate Hong Kong's precedent-setting digital trade transport network (DTTN) after the project team appraising the bids decided to recommend its entry for the award. The e-logistics project team, one of five groups under the Logistics Development Council (Logscouncil), decided on Tradelink over two other applicants for the potentially lucrative contract, according a source close to the team. 'None of the bids met the full criteria set down for the DTTN award but e-logs decided to recommend Tradelink because it came the closest,' the source said. The e-logistics team will endorse Tradelink's bid to Logscouncil before it meets later this month. But the council is under no obligation to follow the recommendation when it takes its findings to the government's overarching logistics committee chaired by Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung for final approval. The three bids for the DTTN came from Tradelink, the government's minority-owned portal for the electronic transmission of regulatory documents, a five-party consortium lead by Electronic Data Systems and Hong Kong-listed Computer and Technologies Holdings. The DTTN, an electronic platform designed to manage the physical flow and documentation of the US$1.1 billion in trade which transits Hong Kong on an average day, is seen as a key to securing the SAR's status as the region's premier logistics hub. The source close to e-logistics said the eventual winner of the bid would not necessarily have a monopoly on electronic trade management in Hong Kong, suggesting the losers could still apply to build their own networks 'if they were really keen'. As envisioned by the government's HK$5 million DTTN report, written by consultants at Accenture, it is an online trade-management system which co-ordinates the flow of goods by sea, land and air throughout the south China region. The theoretical result was a more efficient use of the region's physical infrastructure, giving Asia's exporters and consignees of goods a cost incentive to source and move their products through south China ports and airports. It would allow the region, particularly high-cost Hong Kong, to compete on the value the DTTN would add to the buyers' supply chains, not just on cost. The Accenture study estimated its model would cost HK$3 billion to put in place over 17 years. During that time the savings to the trade and logistics industry would reach $11.8 billion from improvements in operational efficiencies alone. About 'four or five' members of the 15-strong e-logistics project team were removed from the bid-vetting process because they had 'obvious conflicts of interest', according to a Logscouncil member. Among those who were asked not to participate in the process were Justin Yue, Tradelink chief executive and Harry Lee, a director at Tradelink. It is unclear whether government officials such as Port Development Council secretary Raymond Fan Wai-ming or the representatives from the Commerce and Industry and Information Technology Bureaus, Gordon Leung and Joyce Mok, also stepped aside due to the government's 42 per cent stake in Tradelink.