Following is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Willy Lin, Chairman, of Hong Kong Shippers' Council. The interview was broadcast on CNBC on 26 April 2017 at 09:30AM SG/HK Time, during CNBC's "Hong Kong versus Singapore" theme week.
All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview".
Interviewed by Bernie Lo, Anchor, CNBC.
Bernie Lo: How's the shipping industry in Hong Kong? I actually went to the…pay a visit, a rare visit down to the container terminal. Talked to Robert and from Maersk. Looked pretty busy down there, a lot of containers.
Willy Lin: Oh, the economy's doing quite well. I think that despite what everybody's concerned, yeah shipping line, probably when you went there, recently there was two ultra large, the biggest of the container boat and it was actually called a Hong Kong Ports. Just like the A380s of the airlines. So we can see that Hong Kong is still despite of limitation of space, ultra large ports are actually still calling Hong Kong the ship's icon of Hong Kong. So they will be hollow steel will be imported hotpot in which, particularly, recently the government made a draft, the port to be deeper. So up to 20 meters at all times. So a real large boat can have no problem coming in through the ports in Hong Kong. So that actually stayed with Hong Kong, an important hot port. So, suddenly, with a lot of feeders that will come from different parts of China, different South East Asias, or even Taiwan or Japan or even Korea. Smaller boat come in here, put your bigger boat, and they go!
Bernie: This is something that a lot of people didn't realize because you can't see it from the surface. They actually dredge out the bottom and made it deeper. So you can get deeper holes in here and you won't run aground like you would've in the old days. This is actually a big deal. It makes a big difference and allows more capacity to come in and berth.
Willy: Well it's important because if one, say, shipping line will always say that they reap more efficiency. So they believe this kind of bigger boat, ultra large boat, will bring that efficiency they need. But of course, to trade, we also want them to go faster. Just now you say, different type of technology tried to make the boat faster, I think this container shipping industry now is actually doing more slower travelling. They claim to save fuel. But I still remember the '81, when I came back to work, I mean Hong Kong to Europe is about 18 days. Now it's 30 days. So the cost to the buyers, the shippers is actually a lot more. So we urged them to say come on the only logistic trade that goes lower is boat now, unfortunately.
Bernie: Here's my, here's my concern. Years ago, remember the days when we thought we needed to build lots more facilities and we needed CT 10 maybe CT 11, maybe CT 12, I don't know how high it got, but I remember those days, years and then one day we woke up and realized, hey we don't need to do that. Because China has ports like, has ports like Yantian. You know, and we got rich people like Li Ka-shing, and they can develop that and the boats can go there and go directly to, you know, where the goods need to be offloaded rather than come here, instead. Offload onto a truck and then have to go through customs and bottlenecks. And I'm just kind of worried that we're sort of witnessing the beginning of the end of Hong Kong in a sense. I'm sorry am I depressing, am I a depressing person?
Willy: We're not going to see it the doomsday effect yet. We're not in doomsday yet. I think that Hong Kong actually is a very unique place with entrepreneurs with a very, very swift mind set. Yes. We are no longer quote unquote the largest port. We're number five now. So like Hong Kong, like all other Asian trade in comparison with Singapore, we are the majority transshipment cargoes. Singapore actually depend more on transshipment than Hong Kong does. So today's multimodal industries is rail, sea and air, and trucking, of course. All fours are the pillar for Hong Kong and not one. Either one, oh I have sea, I don't have air but now earlier you talked with Mark who is doing air. Do very well. Hong Kong have unique positions. The e-commerce, the change of the manufacturing industry across the border also brought changes. So yes are we going to be, totally disappear off earth? Of logistic. No way! Because we have to import food for Hong Kong also. We are the only place, if think about it, within six hour radius of Hong Kong. We are the only place that are totally duty free. So Singapore is not. We are. So that radius actually enable us to attract a lot of import cargoes and then we distribute within Asia. I always say that a container coming to Hong Kong will be a thousand bucks. But air freight, we got a lot more expenses. Air freight is more on the time sensitive items. I think most containers will be for food, for general cargoes.