Hong Kong to focus on boosting maritime services

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has said that Hong Kong could not compete with rival ports on shipping and would be looking at maritime services, including insurance, as a way of strengthening its position as a key seaport trading centre. She said that the HK government would offer “ongoing support” to make the city a dispute resolution centre for global industry.

This would include exploring the streamlining of regulations with a view to facilitate the operation of P&I clubs for shipowners in Hong Kong.

Accepting that there had been a fall in the amount of sea cargo passing through Hong Kong, Lam said that the government would inject HKD200m (US$25.6m) into the Maritime and Aviation Training Fund to boost talent in the respective sectors.

“We must admit that relying on our port container trade alone can no longer bring strong and sustained impetus for Hong Kong’s economic growth,” Lam said in her policy address on Wednesday October 10th, adding that “for this reason, we must capitalize on Hong Kong’s unique strengths and the immense opportunities brought by the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and the ‘Greater Bay Area’ development to develop high value-added maritime services.”

Container traffic at Hong Kong declined by 3.7% in the first six months of 2018.

To encourage ship leasing businesses to stay, or even return to Hong Kong, the government has agreed with the directions of a study conducted earlier this year to provide tax relief. Another study has been commissioned to devise the details of such relief. It will be completed around the middle of 2019.

Marine insurers were expected to gain from a cut in profits tax from 16.5% to 8.25%; the legislative process for this will start within 12 months.

Willy Lin Sun-mo, chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, said that the industry would be “very happy” with the new measures. “With all that we are doing, Hong Kong as a maritime centre mirroring what London is doing, I think will make Hong Kong an Asian hub for certain. I think we will give Singapore a run for its money.”

The port and maritime industry contributes 1.3% (HKD29bn) of Hong Kong’s GDP and employed 88,000 people, or 2.3% of the total workforce, in 2017, according to official figures.