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Combined ports move to bolster Greater Bay Area prospects

Zheng Yiran/Pei Pei
Updated: Dec 26,2020 09:08    China Daily

Shenzhen Customs in South China's Guangdong province has launched the first pilot project of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area combined ports initiative, as part of the efforts to further improve the business environment and promote high-quality development of the Bay Area.

The pilot project connects Shenzhen's Shekou Port — an important port in South China for oceangoing vessels — and Guangdong's Shunde Port, an inland port that contains abundant manufacturing resources but cannot receive large international freighters directly due to geographical reasons.

Earlier, containers shipped from inland ports had to transit at Shekou Port for completing the necessary procedures. With the launch of the project, containers imported and exported from Shunde Port do not need a second Customs declaration, which significantly reduces the time and cost of Customs clearance, and improves the level of trade facilitation.

Shenzhen Mayor Chen Rugui said: "Just as President Xi Jinping stressed in his speech at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, the construction of the Bay Area should be further promoted, to ensure the efficient and convenient flow of various elements such as personnel and goods in the area, and to enhance the level of market integration."

Chen said that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area combined ports initiative is a practical action of implementing the Bay Area development strategy, as well as a reform in Customs clearance in the area.

"More importantly, the initiative is essential for constructing the dual-circulation development pattern to recalibrate China's domestic economy with the international economy, as it enhances Shenzhen's pivotal and lead role, and raises the development level of ports in the Bay Area," he said.

According to Shenzhen Customs, with the launch of the initiative, ports that belong to different Customs districts in the Bay Area now share one port code, forming the pattern of "various districts in one combined port", so that goods are transferred directly through waterways between ports with 24-hour nonstop capability.

Miao Jianmin, chairman of China Merchants Group, said: "Due to the combined ports mode, enterprises only need one Customs application and one inspection, leading to savings of around 30 percent in the Customs declaration costs. Freight companies can save transit Customs fees of more than 24 million yuan ($3.7 million) every year.

"Wharf enterprises will be able to arrange the connections between international liners and inland barges more reasonably, reducing the time of halts at cargo ports, cutting the average storage period from five to seven days to less than two days, and greatly improving the turnover efficiency of wharves and containers," he said.

Data from the local government showed that currently, the container throughput of the Bay Area surpasses 70 million units, and the area's cross-border trade value reached 15 trillion yuan, topping the world's four bay areas — the other three being the San Francisco Bay Area, the New York Bay Area and the Tokyo Bay Area.

Jessica Tan, Ping An Group's co-CEO, said that the first issue that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area should address to remain competitive is to integrate the 37 ports within the whole area.

Shenzhen Customs said that with the Shekou-Shunde pilot project launched, in the next step, it will actively respond to enterprises' demand, further optimize the combined ports mode based on the pilot project feedback, and promote the practice to the entire Bay Area.

Furthermore, it will radiate the trunk lines of combined ports to the major riverside ports in the Pearl River Delta, promote the integrated development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, it said.

"The combined ports initiative is expected to cover more ports, shorten the import and export logistics period, satisfy the financing needs of trade enterprises, and improve the international cross-border competitiveness of the Bay Area," Tan said.