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Hong Kong revitalising its container port infrastructure

Hong Kong revitalising its container port infrastructure

Reports on Hong Kong’s Smart City Blueprint acknowledge
that provisions are being made to integrate road, rail, tunnel and airport
infrastructure. However, little is known about how developers plan to connect
and enhance Hong Kong’s other world-renowned piece of infrastructure, the
container port in Kwai Tsing.

The idea of a “smart city” covers a wide
range of opportunities, but the essence is to merge advanced technology and
infrastructure to improve the places and spaces where people live and work.

Hong Kong is fortunate to have some of the
finest infrastructure in the world, including
the MTR, which moved 2 billion passengers in 2017, and Hong Kong International
Airport, which handled 73 million passengers last year.

Around the world, container ports enable
the physical flow of international trade, and Hong Kong’s port is among the
very best, handling over 17,000 container ships and 53,000 river barges in 2017
with 20 million containers of volume throughput. These stats are a tangible
reminder of the critical role Hong Kong plays as a super-connector to the
global economy.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region’s free-port status, rule of law, ease of doing business and proximity to
the mainland make it unique in the region
and a vital component of the global supply chain. With the development of
equipment automation, sensor technology, artificial-intelligence-enhanced
operating systems, and blockchain
technology, Hong Kong is well positioned to become a next-generation port that will provide greater efficiency and value
to customers.

Container ports also provide valuable
employment to their communities. Hong Kong’s port provides over 6,000 direct
jobs and supports another 175,000 indirectly. The port is a key contributor to
trading and logistics, one of the four key pillars of Hong Kong’s economy.

Therefore, efforts are being made to ensure
the long-term viability and success of the port, by creating a new operating
model that takes a more holistic approach across Kwai Tsing, and applying the
latest technology and business process design to increase the port’s regional
competitiveness.

Hong Kong’s connection to ocean shipping
has played a vital role in supporting international commerce and improving
lives. Critics of the port say Hong Kong should walk away from its history and obligations
to the community. It is important to note, however, that market share at the
Hong Kong port has declined over the past several years due, in large part, to
growing competition from the mainland. While Hong Kong cannot control the
threat from regional competition, it can control the steps it takes and opportunities it exploits to counter
these competitive threats.

The development of the Greater Bay Area
could provide an opportunity for the Hong Kong port with its international
status under “one country, two systems” to play a valuable role in augmenting a
system of ports across the bay area economic zone.

There has also been much discussion over
the past two years about a possible mixed use of port areas in Hong Kong, and
studies are now underway to determine the
technical and economic feasibility of these concepts. Building housing above
the container terminal is an innovative proposal that needs to be carefully
considered and quantified from all sides, to determine the magnitude of the
opportunity against the cost and practicality of implementation.

Peter Levesque, the group managing director
of Modern Terminals Limited, stated that Hong Kong and its Smart City
initiative have an opportunity and obligation to create a new value proposition
for Hong Kong’s port, one that will increase its competitiveness in the region
and allow the port to thrive in the decades ahead. By rethinking traditional
operating models and applying new technology, the port can generate greater
efficiency and improve its service offering to ocean carriers.

 

“To make this happen, we need a renewed
sense of urgency, a willingness to break down barriers, and the courage to
think differently. The opportunity for the future of Hong Kong’s port is
compelling and the time for action is now. A smart city would do well to
embrace a smarter port,” he wrote in an article
for the China Morning Post, Hong Kong.

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