The Port of Hong Kong, located by the South China Sea, is a deepwater seaport dominated by trade in containerised manufactured products, and to a lesser extent raw materials and passengers. A key factor in the economic development of Hong Kong, the natural shelter and deep waters of Victoria Harbour provide ideal conditions for berthing and handling all types of vessels. It is one of the busiest ports in the World, in the three categories of shipping movements, cargo handled and passengers carried.
The Port of Hong Kong, located by the South China Sea, is a deepwater seaport dominated by trade in containerised manufactured products, and to a lesser extent raw materials and passengers. A key factor in the economic development of Hong Kong, the natural shelter and deep waters of Victoria Harbour provide ideal conditions for berthing and handling all types of vessels. It is one of the busiest ports in the world, in the three categories of shipping movements, cargo handled and passengers carried.
Hong Kong is one of several hub ports serving the South-East and East Asia region, and is an economic gateway to mainland China. Hong Kong set a record in its container throughput in 2007 by handling 23.9 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units of containers), maintaining its status as the largest container port serving southern China and one of the busiest ports in the world. Some 456,000 vessels arrived in and departed from Hong Kong during the year, carrying 243 million tonnes of cargo and about 25 million passengers.. The average turnaround time for container vessels in Hong Kong is about 10 hours. For conventional vessels working in mid-stream at buoys or anchorages, it is 42 and 52 hours respectively.
The port has been one of the busiest container ports in the world for many years, and at times the busiest. It was the world's busiest container port from 1987 to 1989, from 1992 to 1997, and from 1999 to 2004.
There are currently nine container terminals situated at Kwai Chung, Stonecutters Island and Tsing Yi (the last one completed in 2004). Substantial container throughput is handled by the River Trade Terminal at Tuen Mun and by mid-stream.
Kwai Tsing Container Terminals:
Main article: Kwai Tsing Container Terminals:
The Kwai Tsing Container Terminals (Kwai Chung Container Terminals until Container Terminal 9 was opened on Tsing Yi), located in the north-western part of the harbour, has nine container terminals with 24 berths of about 8,500 metres of frontage. It covers a total terminal area of about 2.7 km² which includes container yards and container freight stations. The nine container terminals have a total handling capacity of over 18 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).
These terminals are operated by five companies, namely:
- Modern Terminals Ltd. (MTL)
- Hongkong International Terminals Ltd. (HIT)
- COSCO Information & Technology (H.K.) Ltd. (COSCO)
- Dubai Port International Terminals Ltd. (DPI)
- Asia Container Terminals Ltd. (ACT)
The existing 8 terminals occupy 2.17 square kilometres of land, providing 18 berths and 6,592 metres deep water frontage. These terminals handle about 60% of total container traffic handled in Hong Kong. Planning is underway for a potential Container Terminal 10 (CT10), with possible sites narrowed down to either southwest Tsing Yi or northwest Lantau, to the west of the airport.
Mid-stream operation involves loading and unloading containers to and from ships while at sea, with barges or dumb steel lighters performing the transfer, and then distributing or landing the containers to piers nearby. Due to high handling fees at the container terminals, Hong Kong has become the only place in the world with at-sea loading and unloading operations. Currently, there are 11 different yard sites solely for mid-stream operations, occupying a total land area of 27.5 hectares and waterfrontage of 3,197 metres.
The Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal between Central and Sheung Wan
and the China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui
provide centralised ferry services to Macau and 24 ports on mainland China. About 100 vessels, mostly high-speed passenger craft such as jetfoils, catamarans and hoverferries, operate from these terminals. In 2001, over 17 million passengers passed through the terminals, comprising approximately 11.2 million passenger trips to/from Macau and 6.5 million passenger trips to/from mainland ports.
Port facilities and services:
Moorings and anchorages:
The Marine Department operates and maintains 58 mooring buoys for sea-going vessels. Of these 31 are suitable for ships up to 183 metres in length and 27 for ships up to 137 metres. There are 44 special typhoon mooring buoys to which ships can remain secured during typhoons. This improves efficiency and reduces operational costs of vessels through elimination of unnecessary movements. In addition to the three Immigration and Quarantine Anchorages designated for visiting vessels to complete port formalities, there are eight dangerous goods and eight general-purpose anchorages providing temporary berthing spaces for vessels. The areas and water depths of the anchorages are diversified to accommodate different sizes and draughts of ships calling at Hong Kong. There are over 460 modern marine aids to navigation throughout Hong Kong waters to guide mariners to and from their berths.
All fairway buoys are lit and fitted with radar reflectors. Traffic Separation Schemes operate in the East Lamma Channel and Tathong Channel. The Marine Department’s VHF radio network provides comprehensive marine communication coverage throughout the harbour and its approaches. The department has direct communication links with other maritime authorities and users world-wide. Locally, the department’s Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) maintains direct contact with emergency response services, which include the Government Flying Service, Marine Police and Fire Services. MRCC provides 24-hour maritime distress alert monitoring and co-ordinates all maritime search and rescue operations within the Hong Kong search and rescue region in the South China Sea.
A comprehensive vessel traffic service is provided by the department’s Vessel Traffic Centre (VTC), with radar surveillance and tracking capabilities as well as a fully integrated data handling sub-system, covers 95% of Hong Kong waters used by sea-going vessels and ferries. The VTC offers advice on the activities of other vessels and gives navigational information to mariners through a sectorised VHF network. This ensures the safety standard and traffic efficiency of the port. An upgraded vessel tracking system, which can track 4,000 moving vessels plus 1,000 stationary targets in real time, has been in operation since early 2002. It provides the latest technology such as AIS, ECDIS, CCTV, new VHF-direction finders and modern communications systems to further improve navigation safety and operation efficiency. Marine Department patrol launches maintain a watch on shipping, traffic separation schemes, fairways, navigational channels, typhoon shelter and cargo-working areas. They provide on-scene support to the VTC, and are in continuous radio contact with the VTC and local marine traffic control stations located at Ma Wan and Kwai Chung Container Port. The VTC is thus able to promptly initiate and co-ordinate actions required to facilitate safe navigation in the port.
The Hydrographic Office of the Marine Department surveys Hong Kong waters and produces nautical charts to facilitate safe navigation within the port. It functions with reference to the standards laid down by the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO). Notices to Mariners are promulgated fortnightly to update bilingual nautical charts. A Differential Global Positioning System correction signal is broadcast continuously on 289 kHz to assist mariners using GPS navigation to position-fix their vessels more accurately. Tidal height predictions and real-time tidal information are provided on the department's website. Pilotage is compulsory for ships of 3,000 gross tonnes and above and gas carriers of any tonnage. Quarantine and immigration facilities are available on a 24 hour basis. Advance immigration clearance and radio pratique may be obtained by certain vessels on application.
Dangerous goods are moved in the waters of Hong Kong strictly in accordance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. Their movements must be recorded in Marine Department’s Dangerous Goods Information System. Fire-fighting vessels operated by the Fire Services Department are kept in a state of readiness at all times. The Marine Department’s pollution control vessels are on 24-hour standby to deal with oil spills.
Other working facilities:
To facilitate transfer of cargo between vessels and the shore, and cargo to and from Pearl River ports, the Marine Department provides and manages 7,756 metres of public cargo-working sea frontage in various parts of Hong Kong. Bulk handling facilities for coal and oil are provided at the power generating stations at Tap Shek Kok in Castle Peak and at Po Lo Tsui on Lamma Island