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The Hibiki Container Terminal(HCT) PFI project, another waste of money  June 14, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Japan.

In the news today, Kokura Container Terminal is to be closed, after only 10 years in operation. The terminal was built at a cost of JPY5.5B, and even at its peak in 2005 processed just 20,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit, a volumetric unit equivalent to the volume of one standard 20-ft container), compared to a projected usage of 100,000TEU. The terminal had only two scheduled routes, operating once a week to HK and Korea.

Even as this terminal was being underutilised, the HCT was built with plenty of money put up by the city, and by the state as well as private commercial interests. The cost, JPY100B. HCT began operations in 2005, where it processed just 6,000TEU, compared to a projected 100,000TEU. 

Such projects wasting taxpayers' money is unfortunately not uncommon.

There have been many airports built (and still being built) around the nation, where actual passenger numbers have been fractions of the projected numbers which were used to gain approval. Clearly the plans are being drafted for the sole purpose of getting approval, and have no foundation on reality. Yet the government which is burdened with so much debt gives most of these projects the green light. 

If the government is going to rubberstamp these huge construction projects which are barely disguised attempts at keeping provincial LDP votes happy by giving them construction jobs they beg for, I say it would be better if they just engaged workers in a Sisyphean task of digging holes and then filling them up again in an eternal loop in some location which does not cause new environmental damage.

Regional politicians are deluded if they still believe that creating infrastructure will bring people or business into the region. And even if they did, do they really want more of Japan looking like the industrial areas of Chiba/Kawasaki/Osaka/Wakayama/etc?

Whilst there is undoubtedly a need for good infrastructure in neglected areas, is a sense of proportion asking too much?

Kobe Airport opened this year, in an area served already by Itami Airport and the new floating aircraft carrier that is the New Kansai International Airport (which is pretty much deserted most of the time).

We will see Shizuoka Airport soon, wedged between the Centrair airport in Aichi, and Haneda, neither of which is probably not much more than an hour or so away by Shinkansen. 

It's all well and good building runways and terminals, but airlines and commercial businesses. They aren't in it for charity. JAL is already struggling, and been obliged to serve even more regional airports makes little economic sense. In the end, these regional airports aren't going to be much use for most travellers because there aren't enough flights to desired locations.

If the country had money coming out of its ears it wouldn't be such a serious problem. Or if the private sector did it out of their own pocket. 



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