September was the cruellest month for the Port of Hong Kong when box volumes declined further than in any previous month this year. Total throughput at the port fell 16.2% to 1.513m teu compared to the September 2017 figure of 1.806m teu, which represented a 5% increase on 2016 at the time.
The most obvious reason for the overall volume dip in Hong Kong in September was the massive typhoon (Mangkhut)which caused more than 60 hours of downtime and forced carriers to seek alternative transshipment locations.
Drilling down, the Kwai Tsing terminals handled 1.19 teu representing a fall of 16.6% compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile midstream operators saw their liftings fall 14.8% to 320,000 teu.
The second steepest decline in throughput this year occurred in April when volumes fell 11%. The cumulative throughput from January to September 2018 stands at 14.69m teu, a 5.6% decline compared to the same period in 2017.
In September, the International portfolio of Hong Kong-listed Cosco Shipping Ports saw an overall increase in throughput of 11.1% to 8.58m teu, despite its interests in Hong Kong being victim to a 23.3% plunge in volumes to 243,700 teu. Throughput at CSP’s facilities in the Pearl River Delta including Hong Kong fell 8.3% to 2.38m teu.
Further north the Bohai Rim facilities saw a sterling performance that resulted in a 24.1% increase in throughput to 1.76m teu. CSP’s terminals in the Yangtze River Delta also performed well by boosting throughput 11.4% to 1.79m teu.
Southeast Coast operations saw volumes grew at a more modest 6.3% to 476,000, while the volumes at the Southwest Coast counterparts headed southward, registering a fall in volumes of 16.3% to 110,300 teu.
As has been the case for many a month CSP’s overseas facilities were the star performers in September. Collectively volumes were up 35.7% for a total throughput of 2.054m teu.
It is difficult to assess to what extent the US-China trade war is behind Hong Kong Port’s moribund performance. In September the Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development warned that 49% of Chinese products going to America through Hong Kong fall under the US-list of tariffed goods.