HONG KONG: Volumes of containers at Hong Kong port are continuously falling. The figure amounted to 3.5 percent in October and this is the fourth month in which the decline in volumes has been recorded by the transshipment.
The total containers handled by the Kwai Ching terminals, mid-stream and river trade reached 1.79 million 20-foot containers in Oct., according to just released figures from the Hong Kong Port Development Council.
This was 3.5 percent down on Oct. year-over-year and follows three months of negative numbers, with a 7.3 percent drop in Sept., a 0.4 percent drop in Aug. and a 0.7 percent decline in July compared to the same month last year.
Even if Hong Kong handles the same number of container in Nov. and Dec. as last year, it will still end 2014 down on the 2013 figure.
Last year, Hong Kong slipped from No. 3 to No. 4 on the JOC’s Top 50 World Container Ports list. Hong Kong’s volumes dropped 3.3 percent from 2012 to 2013, totaling 22.4 million, in part because of a 40-day dockworker strike that held back volumes at five terminals. Shenzhen took over Hong Kong’s No. 3 spot with a total of 23.3 million TEUs.
Hong Kong’s container terminals have been operating at critical levels of congestion since Sept. as the port struggles to handle increasing levels of transshipment cargo. Where the cargo mix was more direct exports from South China factories than transit cargo a decade ago, transshipment containers now comprise at least 70 percent of the throughput. The government has so far ignored pleas for additional container yard space to stack boxes, and barges compete with container ships for space on the quay, causing vessels to back up.
As a major regional hub, the lines also deploy the largest vessels in Hong Kong, which carry more containers and stay in port for longer, exacerbating the delays. The big east-west alliances were finalized this year, and the 2M, O3, G6 and CKYHE vessel tie-ups now call at multiple terminals. When a ship arrives in a transshipment hub such as Hong Kong, the boxes on board belong to five or six lines and require thousands of inter-terminal moves to get the containers to their carriers or feeder ships.
One of the solutions that it is believed carriers and the terminals are exploring is consolidating alliance calls at single terminals that will cut down the inter-terminal container transfers.
But in start contrast to Hong Kong is Singapore. The Southeast Asian hub port handled 2.97 million 20-foot containers in October, continuing a healthy month-over-month increase that leaves the world’s second busiest container port on track to beat last year’s throughput.
October volumes climbed 5.3 percent year-over-year, following on from a solid 5.7 percent increase in Sept. when 2.8 million containers were handled, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said in a statement.
The port throughput tally from Jan. through Oct. was 28 million TEUs, up 3.6 percent that saw a million more containers crossing its wharves compared to the same period last year.
But Singapore remains almost 1.5 million TEUs behind the world leader, Shanghai, in the year-to-date as the port has benefited from a surge in China’s foreign trade.
According to the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG), container throughput for the 10 months reached 29.47 million TEUs, a growth of 5.4 percent year-over-year. Throughput accelerated in the third quarter with the port handling just over 3 million TEUs in Sept. and 3.02 million boxes in Oct., up 7.5 percent compared to the same month last year.