Five years on, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge central to better integrated GBA
Weng Xipeng, manager of a seafood company based in Zhuhai City, has strong personal experience of how beneficial the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge has been to businesses.
"Fishing starts at 4 or 5 p.m., then the seafood is loaded onto trucks and shipped to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) early the next morning," said Weng, general manager of Zhuhai Haimiao Aquatic Products Import and Export Co, which was the first company to supply fresh seafood to the Hong Kong market via the bridge.
Weng said the fish could arrive in Hong Kong by 2 or 3 a.m. the next morning, noting that the transportation period is much shorter than the six or seven hours it takes for seafood to pass customs in Shenzhen.
With transportation efficiency greatly increased, Weng said it has not only greatly improved the freshness of seafood deliveries, which is liked by residents in Hong Kong, but also saved about 1,500 yuan ($205) per trip.
"At present, our seafood products account for about 25 percent of the Hong Kong market," Weng added.
The company managed by Weng is just one example of how the flows of passengers and goods over the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the world's longest cross-sea bridge, have increased significantly since the bridge opened to traffic five years ago.
The Y-shaped gigantic project, spanning over the Lingding Channel in south China for 55 kilometers, connects the mainland province of Guangdong with the country's two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macao. The construction project, which consists of a series of bridges, artificial islands and a tunnel, facilitates travel that used to be separated by channels.
The fifth anniversary of the bridge, which has considerably shortened travel times between the three locations, was celebrated on Tuesday.
Trips made by travelers entering and leaving the HKSAR through the bridge's Hong Kong port have totaled around 40 million from the opening of the bridge in October 2018 to this August, said Kwok Chun-feng, director of immigration in Hong Kong, adding that 12.5 million trips have been made through the port since customs clearance was resumed in February this year until the end of August.
Taking this year as an example, the number of vehicle trips passing over the bridge has reached 235,000, which is 3.6 times that of the same period in 2019, and the trips made by Hong Kong and Macao residents exceeded 7 million, 1.67 times that of the same period in 2019, according to statistics from the border inspection department for the bridge.
The operation of the bridge has also helped around 30,000 school children who live in Zhuhai and study in Hong Kong. Lin Junge, now in the sixth grade, is used to getting on the school bus at 6:30 a.m. on each school day, traveling across the bridge to study at a primary school in Hong Kong and returning home after school. For him, it has been that way for five years.
Besides the people-to-people exchanges, the bridge has also contributed to a boom in trade in the past five years.
The total value of imports and exports through the bridge's Zhuhai land port has reached 718.75 billion yuan in the past five years, according to estimates made by the Gongbei Customs in Zhuhai City.
Via the bridge, the import and export of goods have now reached not only 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on the Chinese mainland, but also 239 countries and regions, an increase of 134, according to the Gongbei Customs.
Lam Sai-hung, Hong Kong's secretary for transport and logistics, said it is really encouraging to see how the project has aided frequent people-to-people exchange.
Like Lam, Liu Yiliang, vice chairman of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, has also been impressed with the people-to-people and trade exchanges between the mainland and the two special administrative regions.
A steady supply of high-quality and inexpensive livelihood goods have entered the Macao market via the bridge, said Liu, adding that the flow of global commodities and goods between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao has been accelerated, which provides a better working and living environment for residents in Macao.
Now local authorities are exploring the best ways to promote the southbound travel for Guangdong vehicles in a bid to further utilize the giant bridge, said Lam, adding that the relevant authorities hope measures like this could further accelerate the integration of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.