Shippers in Hong Kong are pressing for a marine cargo terminal near Chek Lap Kok Airport, arguing that it would speed up movement of air cargo to and from mainland China.
Most such cargo now moves by road, often a single container at a time, which is time-consuming and can be expensive. Hong Kong is the world's second-busiest container port and busiest international air freight hub.The Hong Kong Shippers Council says using water would be faster and cut the delays that are common as trucks queue up to collect or drop containers at the container port and airport.
The Airport Authority has invited expressions of interest for development and management of such a facility. Victor Fung, chairman of the authority, said previously that the agency plans to build logistics centers at the airport, and played down the idea of a marine cargo terminal to handle intermodal goods.
Chek Lap Kok Airport, which opened in July 1998, is on an island southwest of the current container port complex. It is near the Pearl River estuary - a main artery for goods moving into and out of China - and near the newly built river trade terminal. Adding a marine cargo terminal would make the airport a complete intermodal transport center, officials say.
Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd. (Hactl), the dominant operator, is talking with shippers and others about a marine cargo pier near the air terminals.
''We are interested in any initiative that will facilitate smooth transport of cargo in and out'' of the Pearl River, a spokesman said.
Hactl has a link with Bayun Airport in Guangzhou, providing a direct truck service and speedy customs clearance. Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, is the capital of Guangdong province up the river, which is lined with factories producing goods.
About 70 percent of Hong Kong's cargo originates in or goes to China. The mainland's expected entry into the World Trade Organization is likely to boost trade significantly, with Hong Kong continuing its role as a primary gateway.
After months of complaint, the Airport Authority announced a package to cut a range of fees from Jan. 1, chiefly a 15 percent reduction in aircraft landing and parking charges. Airlines said they were among the highest in the world.
Fung said the move was taken to ''provide a timely incentive to development of aviation into Hong Kong and to the highly competitive and price-sensitive air freight market in particular.''