OnePort `fiasco' losing HK$20m annually

HONG KONG's troubled OnePort Limited, a company set up to improve the efficiency of container movements through the port of Hong Kong and to help the local transport industry to file shipping documents electronically, is reported to be losing around HK$20 million (US$2.58 million) per year.

As a result of this loss, OnePort's future purpose is being called into question by the very industry it was formed to serve, according to a senior Hong Kong industry executive.

"OnePort is spending about HK$20 million on the ETR (electronic terminal receipt scheme) per year...and it basically has no income, or very little," the industry source told the Shipping Gazette during a recent interview.

"Shippers don't really see the value of the service."

OnePort, which is a subsidiary of Hong Kong's three container terminal operators HIT, MTL and Cosco-HIT and Tradelink Electronic Commerce Limited, spends around HK$20 million per year on providing services that SAR's shippers have so far decided they don't wish to pay for.

OnePort works under a dues system in which shippers can use the ETR system or a letter of guarantee. "This was causing a lot of confusion in the market and both container lines and freight forwarders are unhappy because they have to maintain the two systems," the industry insider claimed.

OnePort works on a cost recovery basis and it depends for revenues on the number of users, which at the moment is not many.

"So much has been invested over the past five or six years, they don't want to see the investment go down the drain," this person said, adding everything about the service needs to be rethought.

He said at the moment shippers don't believe the ETR alone gives enough value to warrant being charged by OnePort and therefore container terminal operators and OnePort all agree that it should be a free service until an alternative becomes available or a standard charge has been agreed upon.

ETR could eventually become a part of a total services scheme that would be charged to users, which would have to be agreed upon by all parties, the source added.

At present OnePort offers shippers value-added services such as track and trace of cargo and the ability to check the entry and loading time of boxes.

Charges that OnePort seeks to impose range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars per month, depending on the volume of transactions and all the services that shippers and freight forwarders require.

OnePort had sought to increase its revenue by charging a much larger number of users including shippers, truckers and freight forwarders earlier this year when a planned implementation of charges was mooted.

In terms of numbers of users OnePort would like to service, the industry executive said "there were about 50,000 shipper users, 1,000 freight forwarders and 3-4,000 truckers" the company was targeting.