HONG Kong, once the busiest port in the world, has slid to seventh place for TEU volume in 2018, marking the first time that the once-booming port has fallen out of the top five, according to London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants.
Bloomberg arrived at a similar conclusion in January, but the latest numbers solidify the impression of the port's declining market share.
Hong Kong now ranks behind Shanghai, Singapore, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Busan in the top-ten busiest port list. Shenzhen and Guangzhou are both direct competitors, located just to the west in one of China's most concentrated manufacturing regions. Qingdao and Tianjin are just behind Hong Kong in the rankings.
Hong Kong was displaced from the top spot by Singapore's rise in the early 2000s, then fell to third after Shanghai took first in 2010.
The increasing dominance of mainland Chinese ports for direct shipments from China's factories has gradually reduced the importance of Hong Kong's transshipment business within east Asia, and the competitiveness of nearby ports in the Pearl River Delta has directly siphoned off business. In addition, in 2018, the trade war with the US took a toll on the transpacific trade, undercutting Hong Kong's long-distance volumes, according to media reports.
In response to the market pressure, private terminal operators formed the Hong Kong Seaport Alliance between four of the container terminal operators in which they jointly operate and manage 23 of the 24 berths at the port. However the alliance, which will take up 95 per cent market share at the Kwai Tsing port, has come under scrutiny by anti-monopoly regulators.
The city's competition commission says it's investigating whether the Alliance contravenes antitrust laws by preventing, restricting or distorting competition. It said the probe is a matter of priority.
The Allinace members are Hongkong International Terminals Limited, Modern Terminals Limited, Cosco-HIT Terminals (Hong Kong) Limited, and Asia Container Terminals Limited. Dubai Ports International, which operates one berth, is not participating in the Alliance.