As the COVID-19 pandemic is putting the logistics system across the world under unprecedented pressure, facilities such as airports and container terminals are uniquely challenged when it comes to adapting to new realities.
These and other issues affecting the sector were in focus at the 11th Asian Logistics, Maritime and Aviation Conference (ALMAC), which ran on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Jointly organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, this year’s event was held in a hybrid format for the first time, with both online and physical elements. The latter took place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) and several satellite venues.
Running on the theme “RESILIENCE • AGILITY • SUSTAINABILITY Reshaping the Global Supply Chain”, the annual signature event for the maritime, shipping, air freight, logistics and supply chain management (SCM) industries examined major factors currently influencing the global economy. Participants scrutinised how the pandemic, digital transformation and geopolitical tensions are reshaping the global supply chain, discussing both challenges and opportunities, including sustainable development. More than 60 industry leaders spoke in person or virtually in 30 different sessions at the event.
HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam officiated at the online opening where HKTDC Executive Director Margaret Fong delivered welcome remarks.
“Central to this year’s conference theme – ‘RESILIENCE • AGILITY • SUSTAINABILITY Reshaping the Global Supply Chain’ – we will discuss the evolving intermodal networks in the Asia-Pacific region, e-commerce fulfilment and the post-pandemic retail evolution,” said Ms Fong.
“More important, we are also looking at the trend for sustainable supply chains, the opportunities and risks this global reshaping presents for industry players, as well as the way forward for sustainable development. New opportunities under China’s 14th Five-Year Plan will also be explored.”
Catching market trends
The hybrid format enabled conference participants from around the world to expand business connections and explore partnership opportunities both virtually and face-to-face. Six satellite venues were set up through different regional organisations and institutions to enhance the experience. Industry representatives could join the event at the main venue in Hong Kong, or satellite venues in such cities as Mainland China’s Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Wuhan or Germany’s Hamburg.
In addition to broadcasting the conference live, some satellite venues featured experts addressing logistics issues and experiences from a more local perspective and enabled participants to enjoy face-to-face exchanges and business-matching activities at the same time. Virtual roundtable meetings connected international participants from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg with industry players and associations from Hong Kong and the mainland, helping create new business opportunities.
A physical and virtual exhibition showcases different logistics technologies, including 5G technology for warehouse management, smart logistics solutions, international payment solutions and the latest smart port developments, connecting participants with the best business solutions. The ALMAC virtual platform offered several interactive functions including artificial intelligence (AI)-driven business-matching services.
Current business landscape
The three Power Dialogue sessions were the highlight of this year’s conference, with heavyweight speakers examining the industry outlook and sharing valuable insights. Addressing the changing trade patterns and evolving supply-chain networks in the Asia-Pacific region, ALMAC launched with a Power Dialogue discussion on the theme “New trade order and evolving intermodal networks in the Asia-Pacific”. Speakers discussed how shippers and big industry players can address the challenge of a changing supply chain network in the post-pandemic era. Moderated by HKTDC Deputy Director of Research Billy Wong, the session featured Raymond Fung, Director of Trades, Orient Overseas Container Line; Kelvin Leung, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding Asia Pacific; and Joseph Phi, Group CEO, Li & Fung.
In another Power Dialogue session, “Post-pandemic megatrends in e-commerce”, Kenny Ng, Logistics Director of Global Supply Chain, Cainiao Network, and Hita Supranjaya, Director, Buka Pengadaan Indonesia, Bukalapak, examined the new logistical challenges merchants are facing and explored how they could develop fulfilment strategies that adequately addressed supply chain, inventory management and delivery issues.
Numerous governments around the world have committed to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and the global supply chain will definitely play a role in achieving this goal. This development was addressed at the final Power Dialogue session under the theme “Beyond 2050: A quest for zero-carbon and sustainable supply chain". Tony Domingo, Senior Vice President, Group Supply Chain and Procurement, Nestlé China, and Ed Lam, CEO, LFX, shared their thoughts.
GBA opportunities and smart air cargo
With its modern and sophisticated aviation hub and factors such as its simple and fast customs clearance procedures, Hong Kong's air-cargo transport sector has developed as one of the world’s major players. Despite the severe impact of the pandemic on global air freight activities over the past year, international cargo traffic through the Hong Kong hub has remained resilient. Through the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), the city looks set to play an important role in the future development of aviation and logistics in the region. The Air Freight Forum held on the first day of the conference featured Kaiser Lam, Regional Vice President Hong Kong & South China, Expeditors International of Washington, Inc, and Frosti Lau, Chairman, HKIA Air Cargo Carrier Liaison Group, who explored ways for companies to capitalise on GBA-focused opportunities.
Air cargo demand remains buoyant as world trade continues to gain momentum, particularly in the e-commerce sector. However, the air freight industry has lagged behind in digitalisation and it does not only need to evolve to meet booming demand for e-commerce and shipment for perishables and specialty cargo, but also adapt to accommodate shifting supply lanes amid changing trade environments and evolving consumer expectations. This is creating significant logistics challenges and the digitalisation of air cargo management has become key to the industry’s progress. This development was in focus at the second part of the Air Freight Forum held on Wednesday, where speakers examined the future for smart air cargo. Among them were Victor Mok, Chairman and CEO, Asset Service Platform, GLP China; Mark Slade, Managing Director, DHL Global Forwarding Hong Kong & Macau; Brendan Sullivan, Global Head of Cargo, International Air Transport Association; and Yvonne Ho, General Manager, Hong Kong & Macau, International Air Transport Association.
International maritime centre
In a world of increasing global competition, a market imbalance in supply and demand for goods and available containers, and a shrinking tanker and bulker market have created challenges for the global supply chain. In the first session of the Maritime Forum, Jeremy Nixon, CEO, Ocean Network Express Pte, and Tim Power, Managing Director, Drewry Shipping Consultants, examined the major transformations taking place in the industry. In the second session, Kenta Matsuzaka, Director, Senior Managing Executive Officer, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines; Martin Stopford, Director, Marecon; and James Tong, Managing Director, Head of Global Shipping & Logistics, Asia Pacific and Japan, Citi, discussed how green ship financing and carbon-zero trading had become a roadmap to a carbon-neutral 2050.
Hong Kong has long been a provider of high-value-added maritime services. The government has introduced various measures, including tax concessions for ship leasing and maritime insurance, as well as support measures for the maritime arbitration and training sectors. Moreover, the Belt and Road Initiative and the development of the Greater Bay Area are expected to bring enormous opportunities for all business sectors, including shipping. Hong Kong’s role as an international premier maritime centre and the way forward was discussed at the Insight Exchange session, which featured Sabrina Chao, President, BIMCO; Bjorn Hojgaard, CEO, Anglo-Eastern Univan Group; Rosita Lau, Partner, Ince & Co and Jonathan Jones, Director and Project Coordinator, Crew Assist.
Digitalisation in logistics and social commerce
As the development of logistics and the supply chain is gradually driven by digitalisation, two SCM & Logistics Forums discussed digitalisation in logistics and supply chain agility. Co-organised with the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, the first forum included speakers from different organisations who examined the development of digitalisation in the logistics industry. The second forum, co-organised with GS1 Hong Kong, discussed how firms can achieve supply chain agility to build a competitive advantage in the fast-changing market.
The Exclusive Dialogue sessions looked into challenges faced by shippers and shared how corporations could develop new business models, operations and measures to minimise disruptions and risks. These new sessions allowed local participants to interact with conference speakers face-to-face.
InnoTalks, MarketTalks examine industry issues
The InnoTalks and MarketTalks sessions returned this year. InnoTalks featured smart-port development in the Asia-Pacific region, the latest heavy-lift cargo drones and digital solutions for environment, sustainability and governance (ESG) compliance reporting, helping conference participants keep abreast of technological developments in the industry. The MarketTalks sessions featured key industry players from Chongqing, Guangzhou, Nansha, Neijiang, Qingdao, Shaanxi, Malaysia and Vietnam who provided the latest market insights and opportunity analysis, guiding attendees to explore business opportunities in the logistics ecosystem.
The ALMAC virtual platform provided interactive opportunities to connect industry players. Among them, the online and physical Meet the Experts roundtable invited shippers and logistics service providers to create more cross-industry interaction and provide feasible insights and practical suggestions, helping to address some of the current supply chain challenges.
ALMAC is a flagship event of Hong Kong Maritime Week, organised by the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board. The conference is supported by the Hong Kong Logistics Development Council and Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board. The HKTDC invited 20 global leaders from the logistics and shipping industries, along with representatives from internationally renowned companies, to serve as honorary advisors on the agenda and content of ALMAC.