The Busiest Ports in the World and How they Handle Operations – Part I (Hong Kong)

Image Courtesy: Port of Hong Kong

2017 was generally considered to be a good year for global shipping, thus, naturally, ports were busy. Many ports have achieved record volumes and upgraded their infrastructure to make room for vessels that are one getting bigger as time increases. There have also been remarkable changes in terms of automation, investment in cranes and digitalisation of various process to save on time and human effort.

Sea News, in this 3-part series provides its readers with an insight into the working of 3 of the biggest ports in the world and how they handle operations.

Port of Hong Kong 

Vision – “Building on Hong Kong’s vibrant port and established shipping heritage as an international maritime centre, Hong Kong will further consolidate into a major maritime services hub through effective governance, policies and activities practices for the maritime cluster, with good synergy with shipping and port operations.”

Hong Kong is one of the busiest and most efficient international container ports in the world. It handled 19.8 million TEUs of containers in 2016. The port provided about 330 container liner services per week connecting to around 470 destinations worldwide.

The locations of the major cargo handling facilities, including container terminals, river trade terminal, mid-stream sites, public cargo working areas (PCWAs) and supporting facilities, such as ship repair yards and typhoon shelters, are shown in the following plan:

The Port of Hong Kong

In 2016, the Kwai Chung-Tsing Yi Container Terminals handled 15.2 million TEUs, representing 77% of the port’s container throughput. The remaining 23% was handled at mid-stream sites, the river trade terminal, PCWAs, buoys and anchorages, and other wharves.

Container terminals (CTs) are situated in the Kwai Chung-Tsing Yi basin. There are nine terminals operated by five different operators, namely Modern Terminals Ltd (MTL), Hongkong International Terminals Ltd (HIT), COSCO-HIT Terminals (Hong Kong) Ltd (CHT), Goodman DP World Hong Kong Ltd and Asia Container Terminals Ltd (ACT). They occupy 279 hectares of land, providing 24 berths and 7 694 metres of deep water frontage.

The water depth of the Kwai Tsing Container Basin is 15 metres. A project to deepen the Basin and its approach to 17 metres has been substantially completed in April 2016. The total handling capacity of the container terminals is over 20 million TEUs per year.

Port back-up (PBU) activities are an integral part of the overall port operation in Hong Kong. They are essential port-related activities but do not need to be located within the confines of the port. PBU facilities include container depots, container yards, container vehicle parks and container vehicle repair workshops.

Currently, there are about 425 hectares of land being used for PBU facilities, about 100 hectares are located within the confines of the port and the rest are mainly located in the New Territories (e.g. Yuen Long, Lok Ma Chau).

In Hong Kong, there are two types of Government Mooring Buoys (GMB) serving ocean-going vessels calling on the Hong Kong port:-

Class A GMBs – for vessels up to 183 m in length with drafts between 6.4 m and 9.8 m; and

Class B GMBs – for vessels up to 137 m in length with drafts between 6.4 m and 9.1 m.

GMBs allow ocean going vessels moored at anchorages to transfer their cargo to and from barges secured to the ships’ sides. GMBs can also serve as typhoon moorings for vessels during extreme weather conditions, and can be used for other non-cargo activities such as mooring of cruise ships.

In Hong Kong, cargo handling can also take place at anchorages. There are 16 such anchorages with a combined area of 3,606 hectares.

In 2016, a total of 1.6 million TEUs of containers and 32.8 million tonnes of non-containerised cargo were handled at the buoys and anchorages.

The operation of the River Trade Terminal in Hong Kong involves the consolidation of containerised, break bulk and bulk cargo shipped between the Hong Kong port and ports in the Pearl River Delta. The terminal is located near Pillar Point in Tuen Mun and is operated by the River Trade Terminal Company Ltd. The terminal is operating with 65 hectares of land and 3,000 metres of quay.

On December 5 2017, Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, at the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Pavilion at Marintec China 2017, said, “On the maritime front, Hong Kong is more than Asia’s world city. We serve as an international maritime centre and logistics hub providing value-added services for worldwide customers. There are unique advantages doing business in Hong Kong. Apart from excellent connectivity, Hong Kong enjoys a competitive profits tax regime compared with other economies. At the same time, Hong Kong has entered into double taxation relief arrangements covering shipping income with 45 trading partners. All these advantages have made Hong Kong a home base for many shipowners, who own or manage 9.6 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet in terms of deadweight tonnage. In support of the shipowning business, a vibrant maritime cluster of over 800 maritime services companies is operating in Hong Kong, offering a myriad of services such as ship management, shipbroking and chartering, shipping finance, marine insurance, maritime legal and arbitration services. No matter whether you are shipowners or shippers, you can always find what you want under the same roof in Hong Kong.”

While Port of Shanghai overtook Port of Hong Kong, making it the world’s busiest port, the Port of Hong Kong continues to be one of the most efficient and busiest ports in the world.

Sea News Feature, January 9