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The Tokyo Bay Area Development: Lessons to be Learned

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area plan aims to bring together the three areas’ strengths and create an economic region comparable to those centred around New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. One of the major challenges facing those in charge of implementing the plan is how to get the various regional administrations involved to coordinate their policies and communicate effectively with each other.

Japan’s Tokyo Bay Area offers a useful comparison from which lessons can be learnt. The name is generally taken to refer to the area comprising Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa and four other surrounding prefectures (the “One Metropolis Seven Prefectures" definition). In area, this amounts to just a tenth of the country’s total land mass, but is home to 35% of its population and generates almost 40% of its GDP.

A narrower definition of what makes up the Tokyo Bay Area covers just Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa (the “One Metropolis Three Prefectures" definition). This smaller area still accounts for almost a third of Japan’s economic output.

Map: Tokyo Bay Area
Map: Tokyo Bay Area

A Brief History of Tokyo Bay Area’s Development

The development of the Tokyo Bay Area began under the Meiji Restoration in the late nineteenth century, when the city, formerly known as Edo, was renamed and restored to its former position as the country’s capital. Subsequent social, political and economic reforms, and the development of infrastructure including a national railway system and modern communications networks contributed to Japan’s rapid industrialization. The import of advanced technologies from Europe hastened the development of manufacturing industries such as textiles, steel and machinery processing. Many production facilities were built around Tokyo Bay to make access to the ports easier.

In the 1950s, the development of two industrial zones around the western and eastern coasts of Tokyo Bay helped the Japanese economy recover rapidly from the destruction caused by the Second World War. The Keihin Industrial Zone, on the western coast, consists of Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama, and is a centre for precision machinery, publishing, printing and auto parts. The Keiyo Industrial Zone in the east which covers eight cities in the Chiba prefecture, specialises in electric power generation, and the petrochemical, petroleum, shipbuilding, modern logistics, shipping and steel industries. Combined with Tokyo’s resources in the areas of finance, R&D, and corporate headquarters, the two zones helped Japan become the world’s leading centre for advanced manufacturing.

However, the initial development of the Tokyo Bay Area was accompanied by a lack of planning and control. A consequence of this was the explosive population growth in central Tokyo and, alongside this, a huge increase in the size of the Bay Area through land reclamation. In 1958, Japan’s government put forward a plan for the National Capital Region to address the issues caused by this rapid urban expansion. Since then, five regional plans for the Tokyo Bay Area have been implemented.

Over the last 60 years, the national government has adopted a top-down, centralised approach to try to ensure that the region enjoys balanced growth and that the nation’s resources are efficiently allocated. At the same time, the region’s local authorities have established mechanisms such as joint committees to encourage coordination and communication between them and ensure that their policies for the development of the region are implemented smoothly and effectively. Japanese think tanks have also played an important role in these inter-governmental exchanges and communications. The Japan Project Industry Council, for example, has conducted research, provided policy recommendations and encouraged the exchange of ideas and information between industry, government and academics on matters such as disaster prevention, urban planning and regional planning.

Map: The Six Ports of Tokyo Bay
Map: The Six Ports of Tokyo Bay

Port Co-ordination

There are six ports in Tokyo Bay – Tokyo Port, Yokohama Port, Chiba Port, Kawasaki Port, Yokosuka Port and Kisarazu Port - which are all well connected with the region’s two international airports and high-speed railway network. Japan’s ports are all classified according to their function and importance. Under this classification, Tokyo Port, Yokohama Port and Kawasaki Port are International Container Hub Ports, the most important category; while Chiba Port, Yokosuka Port and Kisarazu Port are International Hub Ports, the second most important.

Table: Types of Ports and Harbours by Classification in Japan
Table: Types of Ports and Harbours by Classification in Japan

Japan’s Port and Harbor Law was enacted in 1950, laying the foundation for the country’s current port management system. Under the law, the central government’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) takes a leading role in the development of ports and harbors, and is responsible for the bulk of large-scale construction of public base facilities. The management of the ports is carried out by local governments or port authorities established by local governments (which can involve joint investment from private companies; there are no restrictions on foreign participation). The law also outlines how construction and maintenance costs for each type of port, business classification and facility will be divided between national government and the port management authorities.

Under the law, the MLIT is also charged with formulating an overall policy for the development, utilisation and preservation of the country’s ports, while the port management bodies must draw up a specific plan for each port. However, if the MLIT thinks it necessary, it may ask a port management body to revise its port plan, or recommend that separate port management bodies establish a joint committee to ease communication and coordination between them.

In 2008, the local governments in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kawasaki City, and Yokohama City agreed to promote further cooperation in order to reinforce the global competitiveness of their three ports (collectively called the Port of Keihin). They established the Keihin Partnership Council in 2009 as a joint committee designed to improve partnership and cooperation between the three, and in 2011, drew up the Comprehensive Keihin Port Plan. Under a 2014 revised version of this plan, each of the three ports divided up their roles and functions so as to take advantage of each one’s characteristics and existing facilities. Splitting up operations between them in this way is designed to maximise Keihin Port’s economic power and potential.

Table: Revised Keihin Port Plan (December 2014) – Division of Roles among Harbours
Table: Revised Keihin Port Plan (December 2014) – Division of Roles among Harbours

Lessons for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area (GHKM Bay Area) is more diverse than the Tokyo Bay Area in many ways. “One country, two systems", "three customs" and "four core cities" are often mentioned as some of its most distinctive features. That makes coordination the most challenging part of the Bay Area’s development plan. An effective coordination and communication mechanism needs to be established among the governments of the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions, and the nine Chinese mainland cities involved, along with the participation of industry, think-tanks and academics.

The Tokyo Bay Area’s experience in defining each port’s roles and functions shows how greater coordination between public facilities in the GHKM Bay Area may be desirable. A recent report by Hang Seng Management College proposed a model in which Hong Kong’s terminal operators collaborate and share their facilities. It is estimated that this would lead to a 49% decrease in the number of inter-terminal transfers at Hong Kong Port, which potentially could mean lower port charges, better customer service, reduced waiting times and costs, and less pollution. Collaboration could also help the major ports and airports in the GHKM Bay Area reduce unnecessary traffic, avoid competition and increase overall competitiveness.

Content provided by Picture: Wenda Ma
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