Hed: Diversification strategy critical as HK port operators see volumes slide

HED Hong Kong Terminals

While the Port of Hong Kong continues to decline with an 8% drop in March throughput to 1.52m teu, the city’s port operators have done well with their diversification strategies and have benefitted from their investments in various terminals in Southern China to put in improving performances.

Volumes at the main Kwai Tsing terminals fell 9% in March to 1.17m teu while at the non-Kwai Tsing terminals throughput was down 4.3% to 350,000 teu. The March figures for the Kwai Tsing terminals are a slight improvement from the 9.8% year-on-year drop seen in January, the previous nominally comparable month but the absolute values are still lower, with 1.29m teu moved in January and 1.17m teu handled in March.

Meanwhile comparing overall throughput figures, although the rate of decline in March has moderated from the 16% plunge in February, the weakest month so far, first quarter volumes still fell 10.4% to 4.41m teu.

Hong Kong-based port operator Cosco Pacific is benefitting from its diversification policy with investments in terminals across China as well as in other parts of the world, and has managed to turn in a 6.4% rise in throughput to 7.85m teu across all its ports in March from 7.38m teu in the previous corresponding period.

HPH Trust, which groups together Hutchison’s Hong Kong and Southern China terminals, however has suffered from the malaise in the city’s shipping sector.

The star performers in Cosco Pacific’s portfolio were the key Bohai Rim region with a 4.3% rise in throughput to 2.78m teu signalling a recovery to trend growth, and a 14.4% spike in the Southeast Coast ports reflecting good 33.6%  and 14.7% gains at Xiamen Ocean Gate Container and Quan Zhou Pacific Container terminals respectively. These were however from low sub-100,000 teu bases and only amount to 83,600 teu for the former and 108,100 teu for the latter.

Overall performance for the group was also helped by a slowing of the decline to 0.8% in the Yangtze River Delta from the 3.8% and 4.9% drops in the preceding two months of the year as well as the turnaround to a 5.4% rise in volumes at the other key region, the Pearl River Delta, to 1.96m teu from persistent declines in the first two months of the year too, especially an almost 10% drop in February.

Notably the growth was driven by good rises in volume at the group’s southern China terminals in Yantian, Nansha and Guangzhou, which saw 10.1%, 6.3% and 6.5% rises respectively. As reflected in the Port of Hong Kong figures, Cosco Pacific’s terminals in the city continue to flounder, posting falls of 12.5% and 15.9% at its Cosco-HIT and Asia Container terminals (ACT) respectively.

HPH Trust said March overall throughput was 8% lower year-on-year. Combined throughput at its Hong Kong terminals of HIT, COSCOHIT and ACT dropped 13%, while throughput at Its Yantian International Container Terminal (YICT) was 1% below last year.

The trust blamed YICT’s throughput drop on weaker transshipment and empty cargoes although this was partially offset by growth in US and Europe cargoes. Meanwhile the drop in HIT’s throughput was mainly due to weaker intra-Asia and transshipment cargoes.

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