Plan consolidates maritime strengths

March 30, 2024

Secretary for Transport & Logistics Lam Sai-hung

The 14th Five-Year Plan has supported the development of Hong Kong in eight key areas, with the International Maritime Centre (IMC) as one of them. Our country has expressed unequivocal support for Hong Kong’s status as an IMC and its development of high-value-added maritime services, with the goal of better integrating into the national development. The same support is also evident in the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which emphasises the enhancement of the aggregate international competitiveness of the Pearl River Delta port cluster and highlights the complementarity and mutual benefits among ports.


Multidimensional development

According to the 2023 Xinhua-Baltic: International Shipping Centers Development Index Report, which reflects the comprehensive strength of global maritime centres, Hong Kong ranked fourth in the world. The average time that sea-going cargo vessels stayed at Hong Kong port in 2023 was 0.95 days, which is significantly lower than the average of 1.85 days for the top 20 container ports in the world, as mentioned in the data from the Shanghai Shipping Exchange, demonstrating the high efficiency of Hong Kong port’s handling capacity.


Hong Kong’s shipping registration is widely recognised internationally, and we also ranked fourth globally in terms of gross tonnage. The detention rate of Hong Kong-registered vessels in port states worldwide was 0.81% in 2023 – again, much lower than the global average of 3.39%. The Baltic International Maritime Council designated Hong Kong as one of the four arbitration venues in 2020, alongside London, New York, and Singapore. According to a survey conducted by Queen Mary University of London, Hong Kong ranked third among the most popular arbitration venues globally, following London and Singapore. All these factors showcase Hong Kong’s exceptional all-round performance in the maritime industry.


Enhancing port competitiveness

We have been committed to continuously developing the comprehensive strength of Hong Kong’s maritime industry through our own expertise. We therefore launched the Maritime & Port Development Strategy Action Plan at the end of last year, to inject perpetual impetus into the development of the maritime industry.


I have previously described the action plan as a “body check” for Hong Kong’s maritime port industry, enabling us to strengthen the foundation and cultivate the future of the maritime industry.


The action plan outlines 10 major strategies and 32 specific action measures in four directions: enhancing port competitiveness, strengthening high-value-added maritime services, enhancing promotion of Hong Kong’s maritime brand and grooming maritime talents, as well as enhancing the support of the Hong Kong Maritime & Port Board, with an aim of consolidating and enhancing Hong Kong’s position as an IMC.


Port throughput

Hong Kong port’s throughput has always been conspicuous. As a small and externally-oriented economy, Hong Kong’s port activities are inevitably susceptible to changes in the global economic environment and geopolitical issues. The port industry has been a significant asset that Hong Kong has built over decades. As the only free port in China, coupled with the advantage of fast customs clearance and high efficiency as a “catch-up port”, with over 300 international container liner services connecting nearly 500 destinations worldwide on a weekly basis, along with our top-notch airport, cross-boundary land crossings, and transportation facilities that link Hong Kong with the rest of the world, we continue to be a globally pivotal hub port.


According to statistics from the Census & Statistics Department, Hong Kong’s container throughput in 2023 was 14.4 million TEUs. By employing the calculation method of Lloyd’s List, an authoritative media outlet in the international maritime industry, we estimated that Hong Kong’s container throughput ranks 10th in 2023 globally1, which is one place lower than that of 2022. While some may focus on the declining trend, I believe it is crucial for us to seize the opportunity to consolidate and develop the advantages of Hong Kong’s port and this has also been the ongoing direction of the Transport & Logistics Bureau’s efforts.


We have been enhancing the competitiveness of our port and are committed to making it green and smart. The action plan focuses on three aspects – Vessels, Cargo, and Destinations – with a view to enhancing our competitiveness by leading global cargo flows to utilise Hong Kong’s port. This includes developing Hong Kong into a quality green maritime fuel bunkering centre to provide clean energy such as green methanol and liquefied natural gas. It also promotes the development of a smart port by improving operational efficiency through a digitalised port community system. Additionally, we are strengthening co-operation with western Guangdong and other cities in the Greater Bay Area, with a view to expanding sources of cargoes and international connections, and increasing the origins and destinations of cargo handled through Hong Kong’s port.


Twin-track development

The World Triathlon Cup, Hong Kong took place last Sunday along the Central to Wan Chai harbourfront. The essence of endurance races like triathlons lies in finding the right rhythm and methods to achieve high scores in all categories. The shipping industry in Hong Kong has a history of over a century and serves as a testament to stamina. Despite the ebbs and flows along the way, we will go on with perseverance and resilience. We are working hard in enhancing our port’s competitiveness, developing high-value-added maritime services and improving the local maritime ecosystem, with a view to consolidating Hong Kong’s position as an IMC.


1 As there are still ports that have not announced their full-year throughput figures for 2023, the complete ranking by Lloyd’s List for the year 2023 is expected to be announced in the middle of this year.


Secretary for Transport & Logistics Lam Sai-hung wrote this article and posted it on his blog on March 30. (video)

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