More than 60 shipping experts from nine world class ports attended the World Ports Summit at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre today to discuss topical issues of port security, safety and environmental protection.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Summit, Hong Kong Secretary for Transport and Housing Ms. Eva Cheng noted that Hong Kong is a key player with the territory’s shipping services covering 500 destinations worldwide including a network of over 360 container ports.

‘Being one of the busiest ports in the world, the efficiency of our terminals in Hong Kong is proud to achieve a record of 40 crane movements per hour,’ said Ms. Cheng. ‘The world’s largest container vessel can achieve an average turnaround time in about 14 hours in Hong Kong. Port clearance in Hong Kong can soon be done in a split second through highly efficient electronic means with the implementation of the Electronic Port Clearance Program in April. This new measure will allow port clearance papers to be submitted by electronic applications through the Internet’

Noting the importance of port safety and security, Ms. Cheng pointed out that Hong Kong was among the first ports to implement the International Ships and Port Facilities Security Code (ISPS Code).

‘We understand that security is an on-going concern, and a most valid one, in many parts of the world. Recently the U.S. Congress passed an act that stipulates 100% scanning of all container cargo by 2012. This has rekindled discussion on the quest for balance between security and efficiency.

‘To understand the technical viability and the impact of the requirement on port operation better, Hong Kong joined some other ports in undertaking a pilot scheme on container scanning,’ said Ms. Cheng.

With regard to rising environmental standards for port and shipping operations, Ms. Cheng noted that the International Maritime Organization has laid the common ground for many port authorities to green their ports. ‘Hong Kong has also put in place the necessary local legislation to implement MARPOL Annex VI requirements,’ she said. ‘The summit today offers another important forum for us to explore win-win solutions to make our ports green while remaining a viable business.’

The two-day summit, hosted by the Marine Department, aims to provide an international forum for world class port authorities to gather together for sharing their experiences and come up with a communiqu’ for the reference of the international maritime world.

The nine ports participating in the conference are Shanghai, Shenzhen, Rotterdam, Singapore, Los Angeles, Seattle, Melbourne, Busan and Hong Kong.

Also attending the event were prominent figures from Hong Kong shipping industry, including representatives from the Hong Kong Ship Owners Association and the Hong Kong Shipper’s Council.