Motion on “Reinforcing Hong Kong’s Status as a Regional Logistics Hub” (2023.01.18)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, Deputy President. I am very grateful to Mr Frankie YICK for proposing today’s motion so that the issue of Hong Kong as a regional logistics hub can be discussed in this Council. Before 2004, Hong Kong had the world’s greatest container throughput. Unfortunately, with the rise of container terminals in Guangdong Province where goods can be exported directly, Hong Kong has eventually lost its crown as having the world’s greatest container throughput. In 2021, Hong Kong’s ranking in this regard fell to the ninth place.

Hong Kong’s logistics industry has been in a difficult situation for a long time. However, in the face of the new order of the global economy and the rapid rise of the country, Hong Kong’s logistics industry will take on a new look as long as Hong Kong can seize the opportunities. The 14th Five-Year Plan explicitly points out that “[Hong Kong will be supported] in enhancing its status as an international financial, shipping, and trade centre and an international aviation hub”. In other words, the development of Hong Kong’s shipping and air transport is already a fundamental national strategy. We should be aware that any plans which can be included in the 14th Five-Year Plan have been studied and examined by the Central Authorities on various fronts, and that Hong Kong, with the country’s support, is indeed capable of reviving its status as an international logistics hub.

In fact, the international maritime industry can be divided into two major categories, namely the physical maritime industry and the maritime service industry. First, I would like to talk about the maritime service industry. When it comes to the exemplar of maritime service business, London must be mentioned. London has a long maritime history and was once the world’s largest port. Today, despite the decline in its physical cargo volume, London is still recognized as a “global shipping hub”, thanks to its maritime service industry. The so-called maritime service industry includes marine insurance, maritime finance, maritime law, ship management and brokering services. Therefore, following the precedent of London, Hong Kong has great potential to further develop its maritime service industry.

In recent years, the Government has introduced a number of concessionary measures to vigorously develop a high-end maritime service industry and attract more high value-added maritime organizations to set up in Hong Kong. From the perspective of the Greater Bay Area (“GBA”), Hong Kong has a mature financial market and a well-developed legal system, so it can provide sound legal, arbitration, financing, insurance, ship management and other services to the maritime industry in the entire GBA, and is capable of extending its services to the entire country. In particular, with the Belt and Road development, there will definitely be more maritime transportation to and from Hong Kong in the future. Moreover, Hong Kong’s role as a “super-connector” allows it to provide maritime services meeting international standards, and expand the provision of the relevant services to the rest of the world. As for our insurance industry, we are fully confident in the development of marine insurance, but most importantly, we should be able to recruit enough professional talents.

As for the physical maritime industry, although Hong Kong can no longer regain the world’s top position in this respect, the industry can move towards a high-end and high value-added development direction. At present, while Hong Kong is a distribution centre for goods in South China and a major transhipment hub in the region, other major ports in GBA are mainly engaged in transporting goods to overseas destinations directly, so there are basically no conflicts between their roles. At the same time, in line with the country’s dual circulation strategy, Hong Kong can give full play to its strengths and build a world-class port cluster together with GBA to promote the development of the maritime industry in the region. Specifically, Hong Kong can develop intermodal transport by integrating air, sea and land transport to strengthen the key role played by Hong Kong in the logistics chain of GBA. Second, Hong Kong’s strengths in handling high‑value goods can be leveraged to develop high‑end and high value‑added logistics services, such as the processing of cold chain goods, fresh food and pharmaceuticals. These proposals are also well in line with Hong Kong’s current situation.

Hong Kong has edges but also drawbacks. Many experts have pointed out that while the Mainland terminals have long promoted automation and self-service, Hong Kong’s terminals are still mainly operated manually, and the terminal facilities in Hong Kong have become obsolete. What is more, the design of shipping routes has become outdated, and some terminals are not spacious enough for use by super-carriers nowadays. More importantly, Hong Kong lacks top talents in the maritime industry; having no talents is just engaging in mere paper talk, and nothing can be achieved.

For this reason, I think the first thing is to recruit and train up top talents in the various sectors of the industry, and the second thing is to review the hardware problem of the maritime industry. At present, the Government is committed to developing smart logistics solutions to enhance its competitiveness through technologies, but it still cannot address the problem of obsolete terminal facilities. Therefore, Hong Kong should study the upgrading of facilities, and even the feasibility of developing new container terminals.

Thank you, Deputy President.

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