Monthly Archive August 2017

ByChevalier AOC

Guangxi: Growing Demand for Logistics and Professional Services

Guangxi: Growing Demand for Logistics and Professional Services

Guangxi is strategically located as part of China’s direct link to Southeast Asia, with a land border with Vietnam and multiple ports on its shoreline. Guangxi’s Beibu Bay is earmarked as a regional international logistics hub under the autonomous region’s 13th Five-Year Plan, as well as for vigorous development in manufacturing supply chain logistics. The industrial parks in the autonomous region have realised that in the long run they cannot rely solely on preferential policies to prosper but need to develop R&D and support services, such as raising the standards of inspection and testing, and providing training for key personnel, all of which are bound to boost the demand for logistics and professional services.

Potential of Developing Logistics Services in Guangxi

Aligning itself with the central government’s Belt and Road Initiative, Guangxi is stepping up efforts to strengthen the transport links between China’s inland and Southeast Asia, and enhance its ports’ handling capacity and links with the hinterland. It is also looking to build its capital city Nanning into an integrated transport hub. The development involves transport infrastructure as well as related logistics services. On land, according to the Guangxi Development and Reform Commission, Nanning as a regional hub will connect with the Indochina Peninsula to the south. At sea, Beibu Bay will be developed into a regional shipping centre forming part of the China-ASEAN port cities co-operation network. Ten new maritime routes have been operating since the network was established in 2013.

Guangxi is accelerating the pace of constructing a shipping-route network covering ASEAN’s port cities. There are now 35 regular container-ship routes in Beibu Bay connecting ASEAN countries including Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. Meanwhile, the overall planning of the entire Beibu Bay has been revised to reposition it as a mother port integrated with warehousing, multimodal transport, port industries, modern logistics, shipping services, passenger travel and international cruises. Division of labour will be carried out by the three main ports: Fangcheng will handle bulk cargo, complemented by container operations; Qinzhou will rely on its bonded port to set up international logistics and develop container and petrochemical maritime businesses; and Beihai will focus on tourism, plus some production operations.

The Guangxi government issued the Implementation Details of the Beibu Bay Economic Zone Port Logistics Development Subsidy in 2016 to attract cargo supply from the mainland and encourage relevant operators. Under the terms, subsidies of different kinds are offered to freight forwarders operating the routes or taking up contracts of sea-rail multimodal transport outside of Guangxi via Beibu Bay, and to Guangxi production enterprises making use of Beibu Bay’s newly added function for containerisation for import and export.

Photo: Qinzhou port (1).
Qinzhou port (1).
Photo: Qinzhou port (2).
Qinzhou port (2).

is actively developing its role of connecting inland China with ASEAN countries, building more transport routes with Guangxi as the gateway. For example, cargo transport between Guangxi and Thailand has picked up since 2016. According to the Guangxi Department of Commerce, imports and exports between Guangxi and Thailand increased by 32.9% from January to November 2016, with the bulk being Thai electronic products imported through Pingxiang on land and forwarded to locations in the Yangtze River Delta, such as Suzhou. Previously, it took about 14 days to transport goods from Bangkok to Suzhou by sea, while today it only takes about six days through Guangxi by land. The full potential of logistics services in Guangxi under the Belt and Road Initiative is there to be tapped.

Better Logistics Services, at Lower Costs

The Guangxi Department of Commerce and local market players are rosy about the logistics industry in the autonomous region, especially international logistics, agricultural logistics and cross-border e-commerce. Despite rapid development in recent years, the overall market size is still small and logistics costs are high – estimated to be 3 to 4 percentage points higher than the national average. As such, Guangxi is focusing on reducing logistics costs while improving efficiency. Under the 13th Five-Year Plan for Guangxi’s logistics industry, the autonomous region will optimise its transportation structure, encourage the development of professional container and cold-chain transport, improve internal management and upgrade the service of logistics enterprises through advanced information technology, all with the aim of cutting costs.

As few large-scale logistics enterprises operate in Guangxi, and those that do are mainly state-owned, the autonomous region hopes to introduce more overseas enterprises to spur the development of local logistics services, reduce costs and increase efficiency. Sixteen modern logistics clusters are now under construction, and there are plans to promote logistics standardisation and informatisation – by way of integration to enhance efficiency and improve storage utilisation.

Room for Developing Cold-Chain Logistics

is a large agricultural region, with a rich supply of fruits, vegetables and aquatic products. According to the Guangxi Department of Commerce, it exports about 30 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables a year, with higher volumes during winter and spring when the vegetable supply in the north is relatively small. In the mainland consumer market, not only are there high import and export volumes of agricultural products, but also higher demand for product quality. To meet this demand, Guangxi is to build an eco-friendly fruit and vegetable base supplying Shanghai, which will involve modern cold-chain logistics services to meet the higher standards of the end-user market.

However, the proportion of cold-chain circulation in Guangxi is relatively low – about 25.4%, 14.3% and 64.3% for fruits, vegetables and aquatic products, respectively. The loss ratio is higher than the national average, with fruits at about 20%, vegetables 12% and aquatic products 15%. Demand for cold-chain logistics services in Guangxi cannot be understated. In addition to the local supply, about three million tonnes of fruits and one million tonnes of aquatic products are imported from Southeast Asia via Guangxi ports every year.

Cold-chain logistics in Guangxi is littered with problems including structural imbalances. Refrigeration companies, for example, are concentrated in the central cities, with few at production bases. Services provided are relatively simple – generally just storage – with neither upstream-downstream integration in the industry chain nor advanced information platform systems. In view of this, Guangxi is working on a high-standard development plan, and is about to roll out preferential policies in support of cold-chain logistics, encourage the entry of new enterprises and establish public information service platforms to better link up with upstream and downstream sectors.

is set to build a two-way market for fruits and vegetables, which currently transit the region from ASEANcountries and go to Guangdong for distribution or processing. Taking up the space, Guangxi hopes to develop the local distribution and foreign/domestic trade market as well as the processing industry chain.

Demand for Producer Services on the Rise

In addition to logistics services, Guangxi’s industrial structure has in recent years been gradually moving towards high value-added sectors and adding value to processing trade. In Beihai City, for example, the industry chain in Beihai Industrial Park is already extending upstream and to R&D, with five state-level high-tech enterprises and eight provincial R&D centres and technology centres established. In the long run, industrial development cannot rely on preferential policies alone but requires the development of support services, including improving the level of local testing services, standard certification services and personnel training.

A survey was conducted by HKTDC Research on Guangxi enterprises during the China-ASEAN Expo 2016 [1] to study their tendency to explore the business opportunities brought about by the Belt and Road Initiative and their demand for professional services. In the face of market competition and challenges, most companies said they have made adjustments and investments in business and business strategy or would consider doing so within one to three years. Among the respondents, 49.3% said they would step up developing overseas markets, 29.4% would enhance product design and technology R&D capabilities, while 28.7% would choose to develop/strengthen their own branded businesses.

Chart:Guangxi Enterprises Need Professional Services to Explore Belt and Road Business Opportunities

Many companies indicated interest in enlisting professional service support, with 50.4% of respondents saying they needed a marketing strategy for the development of new business and new markets. To tap Belt and Road business opportunities, some 27.4% wished to seek product development and design services, while 25.9% said they required brand design and promotion strategy services. To secure such professional services, 60% would first tap relevant service support on the mainland, and 53.3% would be interested in seeking professional services in Hong Kong. In conclusion, the survey shows that there is demand by Guangxi enterprises for professional services support from Hong Kong, second only to the mainland.

Chart: Places of Most Interest in Seeking Professional Services

Guangxi enterprises are looking for professional services support to develop their business amid the growth of service outsourcing in the autonomous region. According to the Guangxi Department of Commerce, the size of the service outsourcing industry doubled in 2016. For instance, a French company opened a call centre in Nanning, a model city for service outsourcing in Guangxi, serving ASEAN customers. Indeed, Nanning as an outsourcing service base has a language advantage as many local residents with long-term contacts with Vietnam and Thailand can understand Vietnamese and Thai. At the same time, Guangxi also hopes to bring in more service outsourcing business with Hong Kong as their “super connector”.

Guangxi Actively Promoting CEPA

The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement Agreement on Trade in Services (CEPAAgreement on Trade in Services), signed between the central government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, took effect on 1 June 2016. Under the agreement, Guangxi is one of the two pilot regions for implementation of CEPA’s early and pilot measures, after Guangdong.

is very positive on the role of the CEPA service trade agreement in carrying out service trade liberalisation between Hong Kong and the mainland. Particularly in some pilot areas– including architectural design, urban planning, landscape design, conference display, international transport and tourism – Guangxi hopes the CEPA service trade agreement can help strengthen its economic and trade links with Hong Kong, and introduce more related professional services such as efficient logistics services from the city, so as to set a new high watermark for the development of Guangxi’s industries.

A circular on the Action Plan for Implementation of the CEPA Agreement on Trade Services in Guangxi (CEPA Action Plan) was promulgated in August 2016 for a number of work plans, including the strengthening of the CEPA early and pilot measures joint conference system in Guangxi. Six task forces were set up to strengthen co-operation in and co-ordination of key areas such as finance and law, tourism and health, trade and exhibition, transport and logistics, architecture and cultural creativity, as well as processing trade industry transfer.

In an attempt to facilitate Hong Kong and Macau enterprises to make better use of CEPA’s open policy to invest in and provide professional services in Guangxi, and solve the common problem of “big door is open, small door is closed”, Guangxi has implemented numerous reforms to allow a more efficient implementation of CEPA. Following more closely the national unified approach, the autonomous region will establish a service trade investment filing system corresponding to CEPA’s negative list and set up a Guangxi CEPA Projects Green Channel in the municipal office of various cities providing one-stop government services for Hong Kong and Macau investors. It aims to help solve the specific difficulties encountered by service providers in developing the sector in Guangxi.

The CEPA Action Plan has made it clear that the various task forces will promote a number of projects as CEPA demonstration projects, with the objective of strengthening co-operation with Hong Kong in introducing professional services. According to actual needs and based on Guangxi’s own industries, the autonomous region will ask various cities to recommend a number of projects with professional services needs, forming a CEPA co-operation project bank to connect with Hong Kong professional service providers.

In addition to co-operation in processing trade between Guangxi and Hong Kong, more industries can be added into the mix, including electronics and electro-plating. Meanwhile, co-operation in the service sector is also a possibility. Given the efficient management of Hong Kong’s airport facilities, much of this expertise could be extended into the development of both Nanning’s airport and its port facilities, while cold chain logistics has particular growth potential here.

In the manufacturing sector, there are a number of large-scale enterprises in Guangxi in the electronics, automobiles and food sectors. This, coupled with the efforts made by processing trade to seek transformation and upgrading and move towards higher value-added, has generated a huge demand for such professional services as R&D, brand promotion and product testing, which the autonomous region is in dire need of. Hong Kong’s service providers, well-placed to fill this gap and assist in effecting this transformation and upgrading, stand to benefit from the opportunities arising therefrom.

[1]  The survey was conducted among Guangxi enterprises during the China-ASEAN Expo in September 2016 and 149 questionnaires were collected.  Related content can be found at Chinese Enterprises Capturing Belt and Road Opportunities via Hong Kong: Findings of Surveys in South China.

Content provided by Picture: Billy Wong
ByChevalier AOC

Freight Forwarding Industry in Hong Kong (2017)

Freight Forwarding Industry in Hong Kong


  • By arranging cargo transport, the freight forwarding industry has helped contribute to Hong Kong’s success as one of the world’s most trade-oriented economies, with the city ranking globally as the 8th largest merchandise trading entity in 2015.

  • The industry has benefited from Hong Kong’s excellent freight infrastructure. Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) ranks first in the world in terms of international air cargo throughput, while Hong Kong Port is the world’s fifth busiest in handling containerised cargo.

  • Total freight handled in 2016, comprising air, seaborne, river and road freights, dropped by 0.2% from 2015 to some 283 million tonnes, largely as a result of the unconstructive external environment.

  • Larger freight forwarders in Hong Kong generally have a wide network of overseas branches, and act as agents for international air and ocean liners.

  • The industry is responding to customers’ needs by providing more value-added services such as warehousing, packing, sorting, distribution, total logistics and supply chain management solutions.

Industry Data

Table: Total (Inward + Outward) Freight Movements (million tonnes)
Table: Selected Key Indicators
Table: Business Performance

Range of Services

The core business of a freight forwarder is to move a shipper’s consignment to the consignee within the stipulated time, in perfect order and at the most competitive price. Responding to changing customer demands, many freight forwarders also provide more value-added services such as warehousing, distribution, total logistics and supply chain management solutions.

Services offered by the industry vary according to the sophistication of the concerned freight forwarder. The larger and more comprehensive freight forwarders offer a wide range of transportation and logistics services including warehousing, consolidation, air express, trucking, distribution and customs clearance, tracking and monitoring of freight being transported, and application of electronic data interchange (EDI) technology to facilitate just-in-time based supply chain management. Their customers, particularly those in the time-sensitive manufacturing, trading and retail sectors, can thus concentrate on their core competency and reduce their business cycle time.

In general, smaller freight forwarders in Hong Kong tend to provide more basic and economical services. Services related to import/export trade, including the preparation of shipping documents, customs clearance and logistics, may be undertaken by the import and export companies or their agents. Smaller operators generally provide more flexibility and more personalised services. In addition, they have lower overheads as they “piggyback” on the fixed capacities of the larger companies, and therefore can often provide lower rates.

Total freights handled in Hong Kong dropped by 0.2% to 283.1 million tonnes in 2016, with the decline easing from 13% in 2015 as the overall external environment remained unconstructive. Nonetheless, the US economy was gaining momentum despite the slow EU recovery and sluggish sputtering growth of China due to economic rebalancing.

Service Providers

The Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding Agents (HAFFA) was formed in 1966 to represent the interests of the freight forwarding industry. It has been renamed as Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics Ltd to reflect the sophisticated nature of the business. HAFFA, with some 300 members, aims to promote standardisation and professional conduct among industry players. It coordinates with the Hong Kong government and related associations, including Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd. (HACTL) and the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council (HKSC), in enhancing the business environment for its members. Similarly, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Hong Kong (CILTHK), set up in 1968, is a professional body for people engaged in the sectors of shipping, logistics, airline, railway, road, public transport, government, educational institutes and consultancy, with around 1,900 members. A directory of freight forwarders and logistics companies in Hong Kong can be found at this government website.

In Hong Kong, larger sea freight forwarders tend to target big companies for exclusive deals. They provide value-added services and invest in information technology to ensure that they meet the changing needs of their customers. Some of them set up logistics subsidiaries to provide tailor-made and specialised services to become the service partners for their customers. Generally, larger companies’ well-established brands and far-reaching logistics networks have enhanced their significant market shares in the global export market. The smaller regional players, however, have better understanding of the business culture, better knowledge of their markets and have established networks in the region.

As reliable and speedy delivery is the key to successful freight forwarding services, Hong Kong’s forwarders offer competitive services and secure the confidence of international customers through their understanding of international practices, reliability and networks that are time-proven effective.

In 2016, Kerry Logistics was crowned the “Global Logistics Provider of the Year” at the Payload Asia Awards, after being awarded the “Global Logistics Provider of the Year” and the “X Factor Award” in 2015. The judging panel of the Payload Asia Awards comprised Asia’s leading supply chain academics, business leaders and over 20,000 customers.


More than 70% of Hong Kong’s merchandise exports are sent to other Asian markets, with Western Europe and North America each accounting for about 10%. With Asia becoming an increasingly integrated production base, lots of parts and components are included in exports within Asia. In contrast, Western Europe and North America tend to account for a bigger proportion of the total services exports. Based on the latest services trade report (released in February 2017), Hong Kong’s exports of cargo forwarding services contracted by 10.5% to US$1.9 billion in 2015.

The larger freight forwarders often follow their big international customers to new markets. In some instances, transport service providers set up business in the new markets before recommending their smaller customers to follow suit. They expand overseas usually by setting up subsidiaries, joint ventures or appointing agents to render global services.

Table: Hong Kong Exports by Region (US$ million)

Industry Development and Market Outlook

Outsourcing Logistics Services

A number of global trends are affecting the freight forwarding industry, including globalisation of the supply chain, mass customisation, shortening of product cycles, endeavour for achieving low to zero inventory, and quick response requirements. In the face of these trends, an increasing number of businesses are compelled to optimise their supply chains via external experts, i.e. third-party logistics (3PL) and fourth-party logistics (4PL), which are more sophisticated in their service offers and able to provide supply chain management services.

3PL refers to an outsourced provider that manages all or a significant part of a business’ logistics requirements and performs transportation, locating and sometimes product consolidation activities. In contrast, 4PL refers to an outsourced provider which completely integrates its client’s supply chain – managing the resources, capability and technology of all parties, including the 3PLs, to deliver a comprehensive supply chain solution.

Technology Trends

New technologies play an increasingly important role for the freight forwarding industry to improve operation efficiency. The adoption of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technology, which enables users to gain automatic access to information, as well as identify, collect and store data directly to a computer system, is expected to become more prevalent as radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors and Bluetooth technology are implemented throughout the logistics industry. Besides streamlining the process of manually transferring data between systems, the adoption of AIDC technology also enable freight forwarders to develop real time systems to give customers up-to-date information about their shipment delivery.

The Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between Hong Kong and the Mainland (CEPA)

Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland entered into a subsidiary agreement under CEPA in 2014 to achieve basic liberalisation of trade in services in Guangdong (Guangdong Agreement), followed by the Agreement on Trade in Services (ATIS) which consolidated prior commitments under the Guangdong Agreement as well as the 10 Supplements introduced between 2004 and 2013. ATIS extends the trade liberalisation coverage from Guangdong to the rest of the mainland, effective from June 2016.

Unlike the previous Supplements which adopted a positive-list approach to introducing liberalisation measures, ATISadopts a hybrid approach to granting preferential access to Hong Kong using both positive and negative lists. With basic liberalisation of trade in service between the mainland and Hong Kong achieved, the city’s status as a logistics hub as well as gateway to the mainland is set to strengthen. The following sections cover the major liberalisation measures under ATIS:

Freight Forwarding Agency Services

Under CEPA, Hong Kong service suppliers (HKSS) are allowed to set up wholly owned freight forwarding agencies on the mainland to provide services such as shipping undertaking, issuance of bills of lading, settlement of freight rates, signing of service contracts, customs declaration and inspection, and use of common commercial bills for lading or multimodal transport documents for conducting multimodal transport services, etc. Please click to view the details of the preferential access concerning the freight forwarding agency services sector.

Maritime Transport Services

Under CEPA, HKSS can form wholly owned units in providing maritime services such as international transport (freight and passengers excluding cabotage transport), container station and depot services, non-vessel operating common carrying services, port cargo loading and unloading services, tug services between Hong Kong and mainland ports, ship maintenance and repair services, international ocean container leasing, buying and selling as well as trading of container parts, and ship survey services for ships registered in Hong Kong. Please click to view the details of the preferential access concerning the maritime transport services sector.

Road transport Services

CEPA allows HKSS to establish wholly owned enterprises in the provision of road freight transport and related services including road passenger transportation, freight transportation by road in trucks or cars, rental of commercial vehicles with operators, maintenance and repair of road transport equipment and supporting services for road transport services. Please click to view the details of the preferential access concerning the road freight transport services sector.

Content provided by Picture: Winnie Tsui