Report: Hong Kong Slides to Seventh Place in Container Volumes

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By The Maritime Executive 02-14-2019 11:00:22

Drewry has confirmed that Hong Kong slid to seventh place for TEU volume in 2018, marking the first time that the bustling seaport has fallen out of the top five. 

Bloomberg reached a similar conclusion in January, but the latest numbers solidify the impression of the port's declining market share. Hong Kong now ranks behind Shanghai, Singapore, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Busan in the top-ten busiest port list. Shenzhen and Guangzhou are both direct competitors, located just to the west in one of China's most concentrated manufacturing regions. Qingdao and Tianjin are just behind Hong Kong in the rankings.

Hong Kong was displaced from the top spot by Singapore's rise in the early 2000s, then fell to third after Shanghai took first in 2010. The increasing dominance of mainland Chinese ports for direct shipments from China's factories has gradually reduced the importance of Hong Kong's transshipment business within east Asia, and the competitiveness of nearby ports in the Pearl River Delta has directly siphoned off business. In addition, in 2018, the trade war with the U.S. took a toll on the transpacific trade, undercutting Hong Kong's long-distance volumes. 

In response to the market pressure, Hong Kong's private terminal operators have formed a consortium to coordinate the management of their facilities. However, the organization has come under scrutiny by anti-monopoly regulators, as it would control more than 90 percent of the port's container handling business. 

Terminal operators in Hong Kong are also more constrained than their regional counterparts in their ability to expand capacity, as the city is densely populated and commercial developers compete for the same waterfront land. By comparision, Singapore is building a new 65 million TEU terminal at Tuas, which will open in phases over the coming decades.