Speech by STH at Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference 2014 (English only) (with photo)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at the opening of the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference 2014 this morning (November 18):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. This is the blue week for Hong Kong. It is Hong Kong's privilege and honour to play host to this signature event that has brought together, yet again, an impressive audience of distinguished players from the maritime and logistics industries around the world, especially Asia.

     On behalf of the Hong Kong Logistics Development Council, the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council, and the Hong Kong Port Development Council, I would like to thank the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for co-organising this Conference for the fourth consecutive year.

     Markets grow out of the movement of goods and services. Historically, trade and ports were closely linked, before the rise of major maritime and aviation centres, and modern logistics and e-commerce. Hong Kong has thrived in its blue economy, i.e. its sea trade and sky trade. A key underlying factor for Hong Kong as a logistics hub is its global connectivity. This Conference looks at global and regional trends. But at this opening session, I would like to share with you our latest progress.

     On the land side, as the Chief Executive has just said, we are fast improving our link to the Mainland of China. We are well-connected with our economic hinterland, the Guangdong Province of China, in particular the Pearl River Delta (PRD), which alone contributes to 9.3 per cent of China's GDP. Hong Kong has an extensive road and rail infrastructure connecting Hong Kong to all major cities in the PRD, such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, when completed in 2017, will connect Hong Kong to China's rapidly expanding national high-speed rail network.

     To further expand our transportation network into the western part of the PRD, to tap into its booming trade and logistics opportunities, we are pressing ahead with the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, a mega-bridge that links up the three cities. When completed, as an illustration of the transformation coming, travelling time between Zhuhai and the Hong Kong International Airport will be vastly reduced from the present four hours to just 45 minutes.

     The Hong Kong International Airport is a world-class airport, which is also the busiest cargo airport in the world. Last year, over 4 million tonnes of cargo and close to 60 million passengers were handled. Each week, there are some 7 000 flights linking Hong Kong to about 180 destinations worldwide, including about 40 cities in Mainland China. To meet air traffic demand in the long run, we are now planning for the construction of a third runway, which will enable more than doubling our present cargo handling capacity by the 2020s.

     Our container port is also among the world's busiest, handling some 22.4 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) last year. At present, we operate about 380 weekly sailings to some 550 destinations worldwide. To enhance the competitiveness and efficiency of our container port, we are working closely with the operators on enhancement measures in the port backup areas. At the same time, we are undertaking dredging works to deepen the depth of the Container Terminals and their approach channels so that by 2016, the new generation ultra-large container vessels may berth there at all tides.

     Hong Kong's well-established connectivity provides excellent infrastructural hardware for logistics. Our position is further underpinned by a range of institutional strengths already mentioned by the Chief Executive in the speech. Hong Kong's logistics services are much valued for their reliable security, quality assurance, efficient and transparent customs clearance and strong intellectual property protection.

     With our strategic location, efficient inter-modal transport system and professional workforce, Hong Kong is well-positioned to provide logistics solutions tailored for the high-end market segment, such as pick-and-pack, repair and return, as well as inventory management of time-sensitive or temperature-sensitive products. These important qualities have made Hong Kong an ideal place for the distribution of high-value products and brand-name goods. That is why many international companies have chosen to set up regional distributional centres in Hong Kong.

     To maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness and contribution as a regional hub, we continuously enhance our capabilities to meet the evolving needs of regional trade and supply chain development.

     Despite the scarcity of land in Hong Kong, the Government remains committed to identifying suitable sites to promote the development of modern logistics. In the medium to long term, we have earmarked new land in the western New Territories for developing multi-storey purpose-built logistics facilities with excellent connectivity to the International Airport - they will only take 15 minutes to reach the Airport via a new highway which is under construction (namely the Tuen Mun - Chek Lap Kok Link), expected to be completed in 2018.

     Human capital is Hong Kong's most valued asset and critical for the logistics sector to move up the value chain. Logistics-related studies have formed a core part of many business degree programmes, or as part of engineering degree programmes in our universities and tertiary institutions. We are planning to increase the number of subsidised places for logistics-focused undergraduate programmes to groom more professional workforce for the industry. We also support vocational training for various skill sets to meet the industry's demands.

     Sustainable development of the logistics industry hinges on close partnership with market and professional stakeholders to formulate sound policies and relevant initiatives. The Hong Kong Logistics Development Council, a very important advisory council of the Government, which I chair serves to provide a forum for such partnership.

     On the maritime side, Hong Kong has over a century-long maritime tradition. Our ship owners own or manage about 9 per cent (in terms of deadweight tonnage) of the world's merchant fleet. The Hong Kong Shipping Register is the fourth largest in the world (in terms of registered gross tonnage) with an excellent reputation of quality.

     Mainland China's merchant fleet now ranks third globally in terms of deadweight tonnage. Of the world's top 10 ports, nine are in Asia, with seven in China, including Hong Kong. China's maritime industry is to see rapid growth and modernisation in the years ahead. The Chief Executive has just mentioned that China has set a mission for a 21st century Silk Road on sea. The cluster of maritime service providers in Hong Kong is well positioned to serve as a springboard for Mainland shipping enterprises to "go global", as well as for foreign companies seeking to enter the Mainland market using Hong Kong as a regional base.

     To drive the long-term development of our international maritime centre, we are going to strengthen our Maritime Industry Council with a wider remit and representation from the maritime cluster. There will be stronger interface between government, industry and research and educational institutions. This April, the Government set up a HK$100 million (or US$12.9 million) Maritime and Aviation Training Fund to train and upgrade human resources at all levels. A civil aviation training college is also being planned.

     Ladies and gentlemen, before I close, I would like to express my deep gratitude to our renowned guest speakers who are going to share with us their insight, experience and new ideas on a wide range of topical issues during this Conference.

     I hope every participant will be able to benefit from the discussions and networking opportunities at this Conference, bring home new insight and understanding. You can be rest assured that Hong Kong will continue to be a global hub not only for people, cargo and services, but also for business friendship.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:58