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LCQ9: Operation and development of Kwai Tsing Container Terminals

     Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):


     It is learnt that a number of international cargo shipping companies have recently levied shippers a "Hong Kong Port Congestion Surcharge" on grounds of escalating operating costs due to container ships having to wait for some time before entering the container terminals.  Some members of the freight industry have relayed to me that the container terminals in Hong Kong have become increasingly congested due to changes in the operational mode of the freight industry, which include (i) more and more shippers having switched to use cheaper water-borne transport, resulting in a short supply of berthing space for river trade vessels, (ii) the provision of port back-up areas not meeting the increased needs for container movement and storage arising from the growing volume of transshipment cargoes, and (iii) longer time for loading and unloading cargoes as container ships have become increasingly enormous in size.  They have also pointed out that if the Government cannot effectively alleviate the congestion problem at container terminals, the operational efficiency of container terminals will decrease gradually.  Even after the anticipated completion of the project for dredging the Kwai Tsing Container Basin and its approach channel by the end of 2015, which will allow ultra large container ships with the capacity of 18 000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units to enter the port, the container terminals may not be able to handle the ever-increasing container throughput.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the respective rates of increase in the past three years in respect of (i) the average waiting time for container ships to berth at container terminals after arriving in Hong Kong and (ii) the average berthing duration at terminals for container ships; the number of container ships that switched to load and unload cargoes at the container terminals in the neighbouring areas in the past three years because the container terminals in Hong Kong were too congested, and the number of containers involved, as well as the resultant economic losses suffered by Hong Kong;

(2) of the short, medium and long term measures for improving the operation and facilities of container terminals, including the provision of more back-up areas to increase premises for container storage and parking spaces for container vehicles; and

(3) given that the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association has earlier submitted to the Government a document on enhancing the competitiveness of Kwai Tsing Container Port, whether the authorities have followed up the series of improvement proposals set out in the document; if they have, of the progress?



     We would like to provide responses to questions raised by the Hon Frankie Yick as follows:

(1) According to the information provided by the Marine Department, the average duration for container ships berthing at Kwai Tsing Container Terminals (KTCT) in the past three years were 11.5 hours (2011), 11.8 hours (2012) and 13.1 hours (2013) respectively.

     The berthing duration were getting longer mainly due to the increase in sizes and loading capacities of container ships, and hence a longer time for loading/unloading cargoes.  According to statistics, the average number of containers loaded/unloaded by each container ship berthed at KTCT has increased from about 1 350 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2011 to the present level of about 1 700 TEUs.  At present, the container throughput of Hong Kong was maintained at a stable level, averaging around 23 million TEUs per year.  The Government has not maintained figures concerning the waiting time for container ships to berth at container terminals after arriving in Hong Kong waters or the number that had switched to ports in other areas due to excessive long waiting time as well as the cargo volume involved.  But as reflected by the trade, from January to October 2014, an estimated 9% of container vessels skipped calls at KTCT and they believed that most of them were due to port congestion.

(2) and (3) The Government is committed to facilitate the development of Hong Kong Port and maritime transport.  The Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) has worked in close liaison with the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association (HKCTOA) and other stakeholders of the trade on the operation and development of the KTCT with a view to exploring workable solutions to enhance the operational efficiency of container terminals and maintain Hong Kong's position as a leading hub port in the region.  We have been actively following up with HKCTOA's document submitted to the Government earlier on.  The document's major proposals, such as increasing the provision of container storage yard and barge berths, have been fully taken into consideration in the recently completed Study Report on the Strategic Development Plan for Hong Kong Port 2030 (the Study Report).

     The Study Report proposes a series of improvement measures to enhance the port's operational efficiency and competitiveness.  These include upgrading the Stonecutters Island Public Cargo Working Area to a modern container handling facility for ocean-going vessels or river trade vessels thereby improving operational efficiency; enabling the River Trade Terminal, which can accommodate ocean-going vessels, to become a terminal for both ocean-going and river trade vessels; providing additional barge berths at the KTCT to relieve congestion caused by the increase of river cargo throughput; and making better use of land and other facilities around the terminals to enhance operational efficiency and accommodate future growth in transhipment.  The Administration is working closely with relevant government departments to take forward the implementation of the measures, to work out the necessary arrangements as well as technical issues involved, taking into account the views of affected parties.

     The Administration is reviewing the allocation and management of port backup land in the vicinity of the KTCT currently leased under short-term tenancies.  The review will explore how to better utilise the land to support the efficient operation of the container terminals and the port as a whole, including the provision of an appropriate amount of additional land for container storage use.  The industry will be consulted on the proposals in due course.

     Meanwhile, to enhance the land utilisation around the KTCT, the Administration commissioned in June this year a consultancy study on a site in Kwai Chung, currently used for port backup purposes, to explore the feasibility of developing the site into a multi-storey car park principally for use by container trucks and medium/heavy goods vehicles, with the aim of freeing up sites currently used as open-air car parks for port backup uses to provide better support to port operations.  The study is expected to be completed by around mid-2015.

Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:31


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