17 February 2019
The government needs to rethink some rules to help the logistics sector address its worker shortage issue. Photo: HKEJ
The government needs to rethink some rules to help the logistics sector address its worker shortage issue. Photo: HKEJ

Logistics sector: Alleviating its manpower problem

Hong Kong, one of the leading transportation hubs in the region, has increasingly felt the stress of a shortage of frontline workers in the container logistics sector.

The most serious challenge is shortage of entry-level container operators, according to the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association.

Currently, up to 75 percent of in-service drivers are in their 50s, and nearly 60 percent of checkers are aged above 40. The industry has struggled to recruit young drivers due to restrictions in the existing regulatory regime.

Under current rules, all drivers are required to pass container truck driving license tests, which means they must have multi-year driving experience. However, many of those who are qualified have changed jobs to drive tourist buses.

The industry has already figured out a possible solution to tackle the issue. What the government needs to do is to relax the regulation on container truck drivers by listing container truck as a special vehicle.

Also, the government could authorize local container terminal companies to hire qualified candidates on their own, through initiatives such as holding training courses for checkers and drivers. The candidates can obtain license after completing the course. The move would help alleviate talent shortage and ease the pressure to import foreign labor.

Land supply is another issue that hinders the development of the city’s container freight sector. Many foreign cargo ships have encountered traffic jams, insufficient berthing facilities, etc.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has failed to offer any detailed measure for fixing the land supply problem. He cited the acute social issue of limited land supply for residential housing in the city.

Nevertheless, there is an easy fix. The government could approve 70 hectares of land near the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, which would be enough to accommodate demand for berthing and back-up facilities in the coming decade.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 20.

Translation by Julie Zhu

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal

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