STH's speech at Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal ground breaking ceremony

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, for the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal Ground Breaking Ceremony at the Hong Kong International Airport today (September 4):

Mr [Tony] Tyler, Dr [Marvin] Cheung, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     I am most delighted to join you today on this happy occasion of the ground breaking ceremony for the new cargo terminal on the airport island.

     There are two faces to a successful aviation hub: network and frequencies and infrastructure. Today we witness an important addition to the infrastructure inventory of the Hong Kong International Airport that will bring our air cargo handling capacity to more than 6.6 million tonnes per year, enabling us to maintain our position as the largest international air cargo handling centre in the world. This has been achieved through close partnership with the aviation and logistics sector.  

     Together with the Airport Authority, we have worked extremely hard to ensure that we give our air cargo handling capacity a step jump at this strategic juncture.  With the new cargo terminal in place, we expect more competition in the cargo handling business.  The benefit should be reflected in costs, service and efficiency, and will go a long way to strengthen Hong Kong's competitiveness in the global airfreight market.

     The award of the project to Cathay Pacific's subsidiary has been made by the Airport Authority through a strenuous tendering process.  Cathay Pacific's $4.8 billion investment in the project underlines its confidence in Hong Kong as an aviation hub as well as the importance of the private sector's contribution to the development of our airport.

     I cannot emphasise enough the importance of continued investment in airport infrastructure, particularly amid peaks and troughs of the market. Sure, this will be a difficult year with aviation fuel prices having increased by about 58% over the last 12 months, and passenger and air freight volume on a global downward trend, given the economic problems of USA, our biggest market. The growth engine of Asia is unlikely to fully mitigate the adverse effect.  However, it is important that we maintain the momentum of our infrastructure investment so that we will be fully prepared especially when conditions revive for better growth in the longer term.  In the coming few years, several other projects will change the face of this part of Lantau Island. The Government is working closely with the Airport Authority, actively pursuing the midfield expansion project and the third runway proposal. On our part, the Government is poised to kick-start the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macao Bridge as a government-funded project, as well as construct boundary control facilities that will also provide the landing point for the second road and tunnel system to the airport from Tuen Mun.

     I mentioned that apart from infrastructure, frequencies and networks form another important face to the success of an aviation hub. We are already connected to 156 destinations with more than 5,700 flights per week. But we will not rest on our laurels and are determined to press ahead with progressive liberalisation of our air services. My aviation team will expedite the process through a structured programme of talks with our aviation partners.

     We can only build up a successful aviation hub through close partnerships with our stakeholders and industry players. I congratulate Cathay Pacific for reaching this important milestone today, and look forward to its continued support for aviation development in Hong Kong.  Finally let us all wish the company every success in the cargo terminal project.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, September 4, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:12