The following is the full text of a speech by the Secretary for Economic Services, Ms Sandra Lee, at Transport & Logistics Opportunities in the Internet Age International Summit 2001 today (March 19): (English only)
Distinguished Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure being here today to take part in the first International Summit on Transport and Logistics Opportunities in the Internet Age. And I am delighted that the Institute for International Research has chosen Hong Kong as the venue. You couldn't have picked a more appropriate city.
First, please allow me to extend a warm welcome to all our overseas visitors. This really is an influential gathering on a subject that helps drive the global economy.
It's also heartening to see the increasing number of organisers choosing Hong Kong for their events. Only last month, I was involved in two separate forums related to international transport and logistics. So, I hope delegates here today will find Hong Kong an inspiring place in which to discuss the many important issues facing the worldwide transportation and logistics industry.
From the Hong Kong perspective, the industry is vital to our economic growth. As one of the world's top 10 trading economies, we must continue to build and expand on our role as a global trader. After all trading - and by extension, transportation and logistics - has been our lifeblood for over a century and a half. Indeed, the surge in our exports last year played a significant part in our relatively swift recovery from the Asian financial crisis. Therefore, it's not surprising that the industry, incorporating all three elements, has been identified by our Commission on Strategic Development as one of the seven key areas essential to Hong Kong's long term vision. But connected, as it inevitably is, to the Internet e-commerce revolution.
You need look no further than out the windows of this convention and exhibition centre, or from the magnificent new extension across the walkway, to see that Hong Kong thrives on transportation. That is particularly the case in the use of our magnificent deepwater port as the principal artery for our physical connection to the world. A physical connection that is inextricably linked to the Information Age. And I will come back to that issue a little later. But now I would like to give you a brief rundown on how our main transport infrastructure looks at the moment.
Hong Kong : a leading sea transport hub
Today, Hong Kong operates the world's busiest container port. Over 18 million 'boxes' last year, more than 216 000 vessels of all sizes, some 380 container-liner services per week; and over 500 links to the world. What's more, we're adding to that capacity with the construction of a new container terminal. And our Port and Maritime Board is now mapping out plans on how to cope with the forecast increase in TEU capacity to 30 million 'boxes' in the next 10 years. That review is scheduled for completion in the middle of this year.
Hong Kong : a leading air transport hub
Matching the container port's round-the-clock hyper-activity is our international air-cargo terminal, also the world's busiest, which last year handled some two-and-a-quarter million tonnes of cargo. It offers access to a wide range of aviation services covering routes, frequency and reliability. Currently, some 65 airlines operate over 3 600 scheduled flights each week between Hong Kong and 130 destinations worldwide.
But Hong Kong International Airport is an on-going project. We are increasing the dedicated cargo stands by more than 60 per cent to 21. A new Marine Cargo Terminal at the airport will begin operating at the end of this month providing direct 24-hour access to 16 ports in the Pearl River Delta. And, the Airport Authority has recently awarded a tender for the development of a 1.4 hectare logistics centre to further expand the airport's capabilities.
At the moment, the airport can handle up to 45 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo a year with ample room for almost doubling the passenger handling capacity and trebling the cargo throughput. In fact, a review of the airport's development is now in progress.
Hong Kong : an international and regional transportation and logistics hub
This is the position as far as the heart of our transportation hub is concerned. But, over the years, we have built up an excellent range and mix of infrastructure to support our emerging role as a leading logistics and multi-modal transport centre for the region and into China. We have had to. For those of you who may not be familiar with these statistics, on average, 330 000 passengers a day travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland and the average daily throughput of cargo exceeds 3 million tonnes. Nevertheless, there is a lot more we can do to strengthen and improve our cross-boundary links, particularly with the Pearl River Delta.
We are pressing ahead with the planning of a new 7-kilometre rail spur line that will connect to the Shenzhen Metro system, as well as a 5-kilometre-long bridge linking Hong Kong to Shekou. This would join our container port with the vast potential freight market in China's hinterland and add enormously to the strength of Hong Kong as a logistics hub.
Indeed, China's much anticipated membership of the World Trade Organisation later this year will deliver renewed impetus to the growth of regional trade and new opportunities for Hong Kong's transportation and logistics sector. We are currently looking at ways we can leverage this position to strengthen our role in the global supply chain. This, together with the port and airport strategic studies, is scheduled to be completed within the next four to five months. The three studies will enable us to develop a 'total logistics solution' to meet new challenges arising from the rapid developments in e-commerce, the global supply chain and the delivery of goods through a multi-modal logistics platform.
Hong Kong : an international digital hub
No doubt I'm preaching to the converted, when I say the advent of the Information Age has probably done more than anything else to revolutionise key aspects of the global supply chain and the implementation of advanced manufacturing systems. The Internet itself would have to be the greatest development in the past decade when it comes to the exchange of information. These innovations have resulted in the increasing application of e-commerce, information technology and knowledge techniques to drive the development of the transportation and logistics sector. I for one am pleased to have witnessed this in my lifetime.
The impact of the Internet has been fundamental - linking people and companies throughout the four corners of the world, irrespective of the hardware or tools they use. From the big UNIX machines to the hot and fancy palmtops, everyone gets to use the Internet, and use it on an equal footing. Everyone has access to the same information flow. Suddenly, logistics solutions that were once considered so elusive are readily accessible to small and medium enterprises and individuals. Indeed, we are now seeing a trend among traditional e-logistics providers to migrate their applications to capture the wider market represented on the Internet.
In this electronic revolution, the key to success is mindset. Resourcefulness and imagination are a bonus. Territorial boundaries, the size of a business and even language differences rapidly disappear as barriers to trade. New rules and regulations are drawn up swiftly to tie in with rapid developments in the market. Fortunately, the people of Hong Kong are renowned for their versatility and they have an almost insatiable appetite for new technology and new inventions. As the first city to fully digitise its telecommunications networks, we stand to excel in this new arena and we intend to make the most of it.
Our vision is to become Asia's world city with a flourishing e-business infrastructure. We have the telecommunications backbone and IT mindset. Almost 40 per cent of the population is connected to the Internet. Our broadband coverage is 100 per cent for commercial buildings and over 90 per cent for domestic households. Our external connectivity at 44 Gbps is amongst the highest in Asia and it will increase 10-fold over the next 3 years. Our mobile phone penetration rate at 76 per cent is the highest in the world after Scandinavia. We have the highest utilisation of smart cards in the world. And, we're moving towards the introduction of 3G mobile communications, digital television and Next Generation Internet applications.
As the information revolution unfolds, global consumers are now demanding seamless, integrated solutions for sourcing, ordering, shipping, insuring, tracking, tracing, warehousing, delivery and payment. The transportation and logistics professionals are acutely aware of the potential unlocked by the information age and it won't be long before the seamless solution is a reality.
Ladies and gentlemen, for the past 160 years, Hong Kong has capitalised on its strategic location at the heart of Asia. Turning adversity to opportunity as it has evolved into a leading international financial, business and trading hub. A city that has to rely on trade, transportation and logistics to survive. In other words, we are a living example of your Summit's theme - how government and business can best exploit the opportunities presented to the transportation and logistics sector by the Internet age. I hope we can be your guiding light.
My best wishes to all of you for a fruitful conference and a rewarding experience in Hong Kong.
End/Monday, March 19, 2001