Laudable Logistics: Happy Holidays from Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s impressive logistics hub(s) set to get even better. A local look at all of it from the sixth annual Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference provides unique perspective.
Hong Kong: This week’s version of the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference is an eye opener. I have been all around the world over the past 40 years, but had never before been to this eclectic and remarkably diverse city located strategically in the heart of the Pacific intermodal equation. In fact, one could argue that Hong Kong IS the heart of logistics for this region – and beyond. That said; it is remarkable that local commerce stakeholders have absolutely no intention of taking their foot of the gas at a time when you wouldn’t think it possible to cram one more square inch of anything into this tightly packed, 427 square mile autonomous territory.
To say that that Hong Kong’s collective container terminal(s) handle 20 million boxes annually with a daily capacity of 67,000 TEU’s on any given day doesn’t really give you an idea of the scope of this maritime operation. For example, and having only recently visited and written an article (4Q Maritime Logistics Professional magazine) about the port of Charleston, SC, the scope of the world’s number five ranked container port (Hong Kong) becomes only too clear. Already a top 10 U.S. container hub, Charleston is today expanding its capacity, deepening its harbors and improving its intermodal connectivity in an ambitious plan to move the port into the nation’s top 5 ports. When they are done, the port will be capable of moving as many as 4 million TEU’s annually. At that point, you will be able to fit five ‘Charlestons’ – with room to spare – into the port of Hong Kong.
Passing by the container terminals on the way in from the airport – the number one air cargo hub in the world – it takes five minutes driving at full speed to get by all of it. I have honestly never seen anything like it. I’m told this week that seven of the world’s top ten container ports are in China. In my mind, that makes Hong Kong’s ability to attract commerce that much more impressive. Hence, it shouldn’t be a surprise that almost 25% of the local economy is driven by logistics, and much of that – the local maritime cluster. Hong Kong is additionally home to the world’s 4th largest ship register and Hong Kong-based ship owners further control as much as 9 percent of the world’s tonnage. A vibrant group of maritime law, marine insurance and ship finance professionals contribute much more to the global shipping picture.
The conference – despite the excruciatingly long (16.5+ hour) flight from the states – is well worth attending. I’m quite sure the airline is still buffing out my fingernail marks from the inside of the fuselage, but I am nevertheless glad that I made the effort to come. Of particular note was the high quality Liner Shipping presentation on day one. Featuring speakers such as Alphaliner’s Mr. Tan Hua Joo, McKinsey& Company’s Steve Saxon, Maersk China Chairman Tim Smith and MOL Chief Commercial Officer Richard Hiller, it was without a doubt the finest panel discussion of its kind that I have ever had the pleasure of attending at ANY trade event. That sentiment was echoed by many others here, as well. They said it, I believe it, and that settles it.
And, it isn’t over yet. Predictably, much of the discussion centers around Hong Kong’s ongoing effort to build the new bridge to the mainland – eventually shortening trucking transits to and from the local container terminals from today’s 4 hours to just 45 minutes – a planned third runway for the world’s busiest air freight hub, and of course, China’s Belt & Road initiative, something that will eventually impact the local maritime cluster here like nothing else that ever came before it.
On Monday, I toured Cathay Pacific’s amazing air cargo freight handling center at the airport. Although at first glance only of peripheral interest to me (and perhaps you, as well), I’m glad that I made the effort. The logistics technology and efficiencies on site there are enviable, and I think, the maritime sector could take some lessons there. More on that, at a later date. Stay tuned.
Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to tour the massive container terminal complex and then, several other local meetings, topping off what has already been a busy one-on-one interview schedule. And, it came as no surprise that, as one of the few Americans here at the show, I frequently get asked about our new President-elect, especially in the wake of his announcement that he would pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific (TPP) Partnership. For my part, I tell them, “I think everything is going to be okay.” I reserve the right to define what that means, exactly, at a later date.
So, it looks like Dim Sum on Turkey Day, from here in what is arguably the world’s greatest trading hub. I admit that I need adult supervision when ordering. I’ve eaten a couple of things that I wasn’t quite able to identify. Perhaps that’s best. It’s all good. Happy Thanksgiving from Hong Kong! – MarPro.
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Joseph Keefe is the lead commentator of MaritimeProfessional.com. Additionally, he is Editor of both Maritime Logistics Professional and MarineNews print magazines. He can be reached at [email protected] or at [email protected].com. MaritimeProfessional.com is the largest business networking site devoted to the marine industry. Each day thousands of industry professionals around the world log on to network, connect, and communicate.