06/22/2007, 00.00
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Hong Kong port losing its economic standing

Hong Kong is overtaken by Shanghai as the world's second-largest container port. National Development and Reform Commission deputy chairman says former British colony should develop high-end logistics industry and leave container shipping to Guangdong.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hong Kong lost this year its standing as the world's second-largest container port to Shanghai which had been in third position after Singapore and Hong Kong since the end of 2003. For Zhang Xiaoqiang, deputy chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, it should focus instead on developing the high-end logistics industry.

“Retaining Hong Kong's status as an international shipping centre means moving everything made in Guangdong to Hong Kong ports. This increases the time and cost of transporting the products,” Mr Zhang said.

Diverting cargo to Guangdong would be a win-win situation since the province's economic growth had outpaced the former British colony and its trade volume had strongly expanded.

Citing the business model of Yantian Harbour, which is controlled by Hong Kong's HIT and the Shenzhen Yantian Group, Mr Zhang said the new terminals could be run by Hong Kong-led consortiums. “Thus Hong Kong can also enjoy the benefit of directly shipping the goods from Guangzhou and Shenzhen,” he said.

Alex Fong Chi-wai, a former secretary of the now defunct Hong Kong port and maritime board, said port planning largely should follow market demand and not be a political decision by Hong Kong or mainland authorities.

Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council, agreed. “Shipping companies make decisions based on cost and time . . . . You cannot artificially stop this process,” he said.

There have been concerns in recent years about Hong Kong being overtaken by mainland ports since the exodus of the city's industrial plants to the Pearl River Delta.

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