The government is proposing to dredge the seabed of Kwai Tsing Container Basin and parts of the approach channel to allow docking of the new generation of container ships in a project costing about HK$490 million.
In a paper submitted to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Economic Development for a meeting next Monday, Transport and Housing Bureau said additional depth was required to accommodate the new generation of containers ships, the ultra large container ships (ULCS).
Shipping giant Maersk Line, for example, is currently building its Triple-E line class of ultra large container ships, each capable of shipping 18,000 containers.
The bureau said the seabed of Kwai Tsing Container Basin and its approach channel, covering an area of about 428 hectares, was currently maintained at a depth of 15 metres below Chart Datum.
“This level is sufficient for the safe navigation of most container ships which are currently in service, but not for the new generation of ULCS having a maximum design draught of 15.5 metres, which has come on stream since 2006,” the bureau said in its paper.
With the current depth as it is now, a ULCS would have to make use of the tide to get into Kwai Tsing.
“To enable ULCS to navigate in and out the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals at all tides, a design sea-bed level of 17.5 metres below Chart Datum is required,” the bureau said.
The preliminary estimate of the cost was HK$488.2 million at money-of-the-day prices but final estimates would be submitted later when the bureau makes an application for funding to the Public Works Subcommittee.
The works include dredging and disposal of sediment, modifying existing submarine sewerage outfalls and implementing environmental mitigation measures.
Work is scheduled to start this year for completion in 2016.
The container terminal operators will be required to pitch in as well with deepening of their own berthing boxes.
Currently there are five terminal operators at Kwai Tsing with the biggest being Hongkong International Terminal, partly owned by conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa (0013), which operates terminals 4, 6, 7, 9 (North) by itself and 8 (East) in a joint venture with Cosco Pacific (1199).
The second largest operator is Modern Terminals, owned by The Wharf Holdings (0004), which runs terminals 1, 2, 5 and 9 (South).
The bureau said the Environmental Impact Assessment report was approved in October 2010 and an environmental permit issued in October 2011.
According to the government gazette, the project was authorised by the Chief Executive last November after the proposal was first gazetted for public comment in July 2012.
The paper said the project would generate about four million cubic metres of marine sediments to be disposed of at designated sediment disposal facilities.
While the project would not involve land resumption, the bureau said the project would give lead to temporary loss of fishing ground of about 240 hectares.
Ex-gratia allowances would be granted to any fishermen affected, estimated to cost about HK$3.3 million.