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HK’s transhipment hub status at risk as P3 alliance cuts calls

Among Asian ports, Port Klang looks like it will not be the only big loser from the change in port rotations arising from the P3 alliance with Hong Kong also set for major loss in services.

According to an Alphaliner report, Hong Kong will be even worse off in absolute number terms, losing 10 calls a week from the 18 current calls on the relevant strings of the three P3 carriers to just 8 weekly calls. In contrast, the rationalisation of P3’s Southeast Asian hubs will see Port Klang’s weekly calls drop by 8 from 13 to 5.

Although Hong Kong still has far more calls than Port Klang and is in a different league volume-wise, there is concern that its attractiveness as a transhipment hub will be affected by the reduction in calls.

Hong Kong Shippers’ Council executive director Sunny Ho acknowledged that the reduction in sailings was expected since the alliance was aimed at achieving consolidation and rationalization of services.

He was concerned about the hub status of Hong Kong however. Recognising the importance of connectivity, Ho told Seatrade Global: “With regards to number of sailings, it is important to have enough sailings, instead of the more the better.  Shippers understand that everything has a price tag.”

“However, if 10 sailings a week are cancelled, then it is a substantial reduction.  We of course are concerned, not only for sufficiency of sailings for the direct import and export of goods, but also whether there would be enough basic sailings to maintain the hub function of the Hong Kong Port,” Ho added. 

He noted that since Hong Kong now handles more transshipments than direct shipments, maintaining this function also counted on the frequency of sailings. “We are concerned that this important function would be impaired,” he warned.

Ho pointed to the city’s advantages over Shenzhen and Nansha for handling transshipment cargo since the former’s port is split geographically between the eastern and western sides of the Pearl River Delta and the latter is further north and has too few lines calling to be a major transshipment hub, but warned of the danger of cost factors escalating. “Therefore, Hong Kong container terminal operators will have to work hard to maintain acceptable services to lines and feeders,” he concluded.

“The same feeder can't carry containers for both Yantian and Chiwan/Shekou. This affects vessel utilization and cost effectiveness of the feeders. The advantage of Hong Kong Port in having a single location is unrivalled,” he said.

Hutchison Port Holdings, the biggest owner of Hong Kong’s terminals declined to comment.

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