Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fidley Watch - 鏟準備*

* Shovel-ready

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor

The US Senate has once again blocked the final permit allowing the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. I heard the news in Hong Kong, where I was attending the fourth annual Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference (ALMC), at the invitation of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. The ALMC brought logistics services providers and maritime users together to exchange market and shipping intelligence and explore maritime and logistics business opportunities in the region.

The conference welcomed more than 1,600 participants from around the world to address maritime and logistics issues facing Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Hong Kong is a logical venue for the conference because of the city's location and strong maritime heritage. Within five hours by air of half of the world's population, Hong Kong's robust infrastructure and proximity to mainland China make it a natural interface for companies trading with Asia and the US West Coast.

“Hong Kong brings stability to the region,” Mr. Willy Lin, Chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers Council and Deputy Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries told me over a meal in a cafe near the convention. "The city welcomes businesses, and offers residents a voice in the governing process."

Anyone who lives in Hong Kong is eligible to vote in its elections. Notwithstanding the peaceful but disruptive protests taking place in the city center, the governance of Hong Kong acts largely in the best interests of its constituents.

Major infrastructure projects in Hong Kong are fast-tracked to help the island's businesses thrive, but not at the expense of the environment. Arthur Bowring, Managing Director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, told me his Association led an industry coalition that proposed a scheme to encourage ships calling Hong Kong to switch to low sulfur diesel in their hotel generators when alongside berth or at anchor. The island is mainly powered by coal, so cold ironing would not greatly reduce pollution in the long run, but switching from heavy fuel would reduce sulfur emissions dramatically from the vessels while at berth. The Government of Hong Kong responded with a partial subsidy to encourage the shipowners to make the switch, which many have, without any mandate or regulation.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is a major component in the region's intermodal infrastructure. In 2013, HKIA handled 59.9 million passengers, 4.12 million tons of cargo and 372,040 flight movements, on two runways. The airport, built on a manmade island in 1998, is fast approaching its maximum handling capacity.

A third runway, to be created by increasing the size of the current footprint with more fill, is receiving tentative approval as long as the project takes the welfare of the indigenous dolphin population into account. While not yet approved, the entire project (filling 2.5 square miles of bay, constructing a runway and passenger terminal with underground rail access) will be complete by 2023.

A 27-mile bridge, connecting Hong Kong, Zuhai and Macao will cut truck transit times from 4 hours to 45 minutes. The bridge is on time to be completed in 2017- only seven years after the beginning of the project; A 27-mile multi-lane freeway bridge in seven years from start to finish.

While our legislators in Washington, can’t pass a single permit to build the final phase of a single pipeline after more than six years, “Asia's World City,” symbolized by a mythical and powerful dragon, works with its stakeholders to build infrastructure to accommodate trade from half of the world's population, offering a stable base from which the world's companies can thrive.