lundi 8 décembre 2008
Monday, 08 December 2008
Japan’s major ports are railing in the wake of Asian rivals in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore due to a failed "equitable" funding policy that spreads investment nationwide. Recently obtained Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism documents show that nearly half of the ports designated as key gateways to maritime transport—or 58 of 128—are operating in the red, unable to pay for critical costs such as maintenance through the income they generate. In many cases, ports must rely on central or local government funds to stay afloat, according to fiscal 2006 financial statements submitted to the transport ministry by local governments.
Of the approximately 1,000 ports in Japan, 128 have been designated as key distribution hubs and receive increased construction subsidies. But the documents show that the central government has failed to prioritize spending to enhance facilities at many of the venues.
Soon after the end of World War II, the General Headquarters of the allied occupation forces attempted to whittle down the number of key ports to six. At the insistence of Japanese officials, however, 47 ports were listed as key ports in 1951. The number has since continued to grow unabated.
Miike Port in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, is one stark example. The port, which opens on to the Ariake Sea, sees few ships these days, and could instead be called a giant fishing pond. "They should consider releasing fish in here twice or three times a year. Otherwise, even the tackle shops will go out of business," joked a 44-year-old man working for a local construction company angling at the port.
Running costs, such as for personnel, reached about 87 million yen in fiscal 2006. Meanwhile, income—such as usage fees for a freighter that calls into port once a week—was just 4.6 million yen during the same fiscal year. The port depends entirely on financial support from the prefecture.
To bolster usage, particularly by allowing large ships to berth, the central and prefectural governments decided to dole out about 11.5 billion yen to dredge the seabed by the end of fiscal 2010.
Last summer, plans were announced to extend a trunk road around the Ariake Sea to Miike Port. There also are plans to extend the route to the city of Kumamoto by some 30 kilometers. However, Kumamoto has its own port built into a manmade island. That has prompted fears that if the two were linked, most commerce would flow to Kumamoto. Many ports compete for subsidies. Kumamoto, for example, is reeling from the fact that much cargo is being taken by Hakata Port in Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu’s largest port. But even Hakata is no challenge for Pusan Port in Pusan, South Korea.
Asian ports, such as Pusan, have clearly beaten Japanese ports in terms of shipping containers handled, by offering lower handling fees and simplified paperwork for import procedures.
Increasingly, shipping companies are using Pusan as a hub, with cargo from Japanese ports, including Hakata, being reloaded onto large freighters destined for the United States, Europe and China. Asian countries have long focused investment on several key ports, while critics have pointed out that Japan has continued to distribute funding among its 128 ports.
Nevertheless, Tokyo has not stood idle. In 2004, the transport ministry designated three ports—the Keihin region, combining Tokyo and Yokohama ports ; the Hanshin region, combining Osaka and Kobe ports ; and Ise Bay, which comprises Nagoya Port and Yokkaichi Port in Mie Prefecture—as "super key ports" with prioritized investment to enhance competitiveness.
As for Osaka Port, a program to build a new pier was introduced with funding from the city of Osaka, the private sector and the central government. But Osaka officials spent about 25 billion yen on cultural facilities not directly related to the port’s function. As a result, the investment has done little to improve the port’s standing.
But Osaka city is not the only authority making wasteful investments. One executive at a firm investing in the Osaka program lamented that little could be done until the central government’s funding policy was changed.
"The central government is still pouring money into rural ports that have little demand, and not implementing policies to help the super key ports," he said.
Source : Asahi
Voir en ligne : Asahi