Japan plans port makeover

Japan plans port makeover

Japan is planning an ambitious makeover of its major ports to boost their competitiveness against lower-cost Asian rivals and reinforce its role as a regional shipping hub.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport plans to integrate and enlarge container terminals and other port facilities, as well as introduce advanced information technology, to streamline cargo handling, ministry officials told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Japan wants to offer handling fees lower than those of rivals such as Pusan in South Korea and Taiwan's Kaohsiung.

The ministry is requesting 600 million yen ($5.37 million) for the project in fiscal 2004.

The newspaper said officials plan to choose three terminals as test sites among ports at Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe, Kita and Fukuoka. Renovations are slated to begin next summer in a bid to create "super-centralized'' port facilities that streamline costs and functions by integrating berths and different handling systems employed by ocean lines. The Ministry also wants to install automated loading systems.

The ministry estimates service fees will drop by 30 percent, bringing the ports level with Pusan and Kaohsiung, the report said.