While the main ports in China including Shenzhen and Guangzhou have registered rapid growth in recent years, Hong Kong has also been able to benefit from the mainland's surging trade and has remained one of the world's busiest ports. Just as most forecasts indicate further growth in the years ahead, it is also clear that the underlying pattern of cargo flows is changing and leading to the adjustment of international transport services.
With numerous shipping lines now calling directly in Shenzhen, there is little difference between the standard of shipping services offered in Hong Kong and China. In terms of frequency and general connectivity, Shenzhen and many other mainland ports have developed quickly and are now linked to an extensive range of worldwide destinations.
To take account of this, OOCL (HK) Ltd is strengthening its network by establishing new offices in Foshan, Zhanjiang, Haikou and Shantou in the first half of 2006. Headquartered in Hong Kong, the company runs one of the world's largest international containerised transportation businesses, with more than 160 offices in 50 countries.
Managing director Bill Chang points out some manufacturers are now moving their production facilities from coastal areas to inland cities because of rising production costs. In response to this, OOCL is expanding its coverage. In addition to putting money into hardware and offices to meet changing customer demand, the company is also investing heavily in advanced IT systems. The objective, of course, is to enhance efficiency and to add value by making each business process more convenient for clients.
Ming Tsang, director and general manager of OOCL Logistics (Hong Kong) Ltd, explains that many customers now demand tailor-made solutions for their individual needs. "In general, the market requires a multi-functional system which goes further upstream within the supply chain," he says. "That could involve delivering raw materials to a factory, warehouse management and inventory management."
Mr Tsang stresses that logistics services in China have some distance to go before they can match Hong Kong in terms of technology and sophistication. "For example, the use of barcode systems or garment on hanger consolidation is still not widespread in China," he says. However, he does admit that, with the growing volume of cargo moving via Chinese ports, Hong Kong will have to find ways to respond to the challenge if it is to remain competitive.
In terms of recruitment, Mr Tsang says there is strong demand for professionals with middle-management experience who understand the whole supply chain. "Logistics is still relatively new in local universities and they have only recently started to produce graduates," he explains.
Mr Chang says that, to cope with the business growth, the company will require more high-calibre recruits with the potential to become future managers. He notes that some local universities offer ship management courses which provide a good foundation for people who want a career in the logistics industry. "We also have in-house training programmes for staff at different levels to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary for their work and for future advancement," he says
- Expanding network of offices in China to cope with customer
demand and reflect the relocation of manufacturing industry
- Hong Kong must be ready to respond to the competition
from fast-growing mainland ports
- Importance of IT for managing the movement of good in
the supply chain and meeting individual customer needs
- Strong demand for new recruits, especially those with
middle-management experience in logistics