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Asia's seaport tech

Jimmy Yap | July 20, 2008
Former British colonies Singapore and Hong Kong, set up as strategic free seaports to service world trade through the region, rose to power largely on the economic activities of their harbours. The comparisons and competition continues today with IT streamlining port operations.

When containers are loaded into the container yard, it is critical for HIT to know exactly where is each container. The yard automation system has detailed information on each container, plus a map that has the precision location of up to 90,000 TEUs in the terminal.

Naturally, HIT also relies on EDI to speed up paperwork between ships and the terminal. The customer plus platform was launched in 1998, and extended in 2003.

The Future

While it is common to propose the ports of Singapore and Hong Kong as rivals, in some ways, this is a superficial construct. Topping the league table may bestow bragging rights but, in truth, both Singapore and Hong Kong serve very different markets, thanks to their location. The real rivals that both ports face are in their own backyard.

Singapores biggest rival is the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in nearby Malaysia, while Hong Kong has numerous rivals in the Pearl River Delta Region, as well as elsewhere along the coast of mainland China.

As established ports, both Singapore and Hong Kong will have to fend off younger, lower-cost and more eager competitors that will work harder to grab market share. Hong Kong faces a considerably more competitive environment, already being behind Shanghai.

As a result, while Singapore has held a traditional lead in terms of technology deployment, the fierce rivalry between Hong Kong and the port of Shenzhen, as well as the port of Shanghai, will probably force Hong Kong to make changes.

Hong Kong cannot change its comparatively higher cost base and the fact that its rivals are on the mainland and thus closer to Chinas factories. It can, however, use technology to become even more efficient.


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