港の国際競争 上海や釜山が遠くに見える

albeit 発音注意、アルバイトではなくてオールビートと発音される。=although, even though
albeit belatedly 遅ればせながら

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 17, 2010)
Give hub ports the tools they need
港の国際競争 上海や釜山が遠くに見える(8月16日付・読売社説)

The government plans to enhance the allure of Japanese ports, which have been increasingly bypassed by gigantic containerships in recent years, so they can recapture cargo currently heading straight for rival ports in neighboring countries, such as Shanghai and Busan, South Korea.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will promote a plan to build "international container strategic ports." The plan has designated the Keihin and Hanshin port areas as candidates to become major hubs that will receive priority investment to transform them into two of Asia's five major shipping centers by 2020. Keihin consists of Tokyo, Yokohama and Kawasaski ports, and Hanshin covers Osaka and Kobe ports.

Boosting Japanese ports' competitiveness by lowering transport charges and offering around-the-clock service would cheer domestic manufacturers, whose profitability often hinges on shipment costs. It would not be a bad idea to flexibly divert the limited state budget for ports to priority projects.

However, we doubt that reinforcing port facilities alone will increase the freight volume passing through Japanese ports. Rather, the entire operation of Japanese ports, which have been shunned by the international shipping industry as "costly and slow," needs to be overhauled.

Japan falling behind

Three decades ago, Kobe, Tokyo and Yokohama stood among the world's top 20 ports in terms of volume of freight containers handled. In 2009, Tokyo was the top Japanese port in this category, but ranked 26th in the world. The world's top five ports were all in Asia--Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Busan.

Large containers transporting auto parts and machine products account for a large portion of international shipments.

Consequently, ports with piers capable of mooring ultralarge containerships and low entry and usage charges and convenient access to key land routes have become indispensable.

Japan lags other Asian countries that have heavily invested in ports boasting such characteristics. Instead, Japan has continued pork-barrel investments in ports across the country to meet local needs, a strategy that has done little to improve the ports' convenience.

Even Japanese cargo owners are opting for shipping routes from domestic ports to U.S. and European destinations via hub ports in other Asian countries. Transshipment costs at Busan Port, for example, are 40 percent cheaper than those charged by some Japanese ports. It is little wonder that an increasing number of shipping companies sail past Japanese ports.

No easy task

The so-called strategic port plan calls, albeit belatedly, for integrating and privatizing port terminal corporations to streamline port operations.

But as long as port operations are conducted separately by shipping and cargo handling companies through their vertical administrations, improving the ports' efficiency will be easier said than done.

In 2004, the infrastructure ministry designated six ports, including Yokohama and Kobe, as "super hub ports." But the plan was half-baked. This time, too, the ministry did not select just one hub port, possibly to avoid upsetting one of the two major urban areas.

This latest port reform plan should go the extra step by learning from rival ports.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2010)
(2010年8月16日01時34分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-08-17 05:48 | 英字新聞

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