Welcoming Remarks by STH at the Annual Joint Luncheon cum Award Ceremony by Hong Kong Shipowners Association and the Marine Department15 June 2017

Following is the welcoming remarks by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at the the Annual Joint Luncheon cum Award Ceremony by Hong Kong Shipowners Association and the Marine Department on 15 June 2017:

Sabrina (Chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association), Maisie (Director of Marine), Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour to be invited to join the Hong Kong Container Terminal Operators Association's (HKCTOA) luncheon. I am really delighted to see so many friends from the port and logistics industries here today. We have been working closely together in the past five years to make the Hong Kong Port competitive and efficient. Today presents an opportunity for us to take stock of our achievements and explore the way forward.

Good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to join you all here in this important annual event jointly organised by the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (“HKSOA”) and the Marine Department.

Hong Kong as an International Maritime Centre
With a well-established maritime heritage, strategic geographical location and a vibrant maritime cluster, Hong Kong has over the years developed into a renowned international maritime centre.  Today, our port, shipping and maritime-related sectors together contribute to 1.3% of our GDP and provide jobs to more than 88 000 people, around 2.3% of our total workforce.

Hong Kong has one of the world's largest shipowning communities. Our shipowners own or manage about 9% of the world's merchant fleet, amounting to some 178 million deadweight tonnage as at end 2016. There are also about 800 companies in Hong Kong providing a full range of high quality maritime services, notably ship management, ship brokerage, ship financing, marine insurance and maritime arbitration and legal services. In addition, the Hong Kong Shipping Register (“HKSR”) has been providing first-rate ship registration services for shipowners.

Hong Kong Shipping Register
Starting with a gross tonnage of around six million in 1990, HKSR has maintained steady and healthy growth in terms of the number of ships and gross tonnage. Last year, we celebrated the achievement made by the HKSR in crossing the 100 million registered gross tonnage. Over 2 500 ships are registered with HKSR with a total gross tonnage of 110 million, a 5.7% increase over a year ago.

HKSR now ranks fourth in the world. Gross tonnage aside, ships flying the Hong Kong flag are also amongst the best performers, with a very low port state detention rate of only 0.81%, vis-`a-vis the world average of 3.13% last year. Besides, Hong Kong is among the very few “flag states” being accorded the “Qualship 21” Status by the US Coast Guards for six consecutive years. All this attests to the high quality of Hong Kong registered ships, which is widely recognised.

As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”. The HKSR has come a long way to attain such an achievement. This is in no small measure due to the good efforts of shipowners and the maritime industry at large, in particular HKSOA which has been one of the most important partners to us in upholding the good standing of HKSR.

The Maine Department, which manages the HKSR, continues to review and enhance the quality and range of services offered to shipowners. Facing competition from the other shipping registries and today's volatile global shipping environment, Hong Kong will not and cannot be complacent.

Opportunities ahead of Hong Kong's maritime industry
Shipping is a global business and is inevitably affected by the present sluggish international economy. The bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping last year has pointed to the challenges besetting the shipping community worldwide. Having said that, as one often says, “challenges always come with opportunities”. The Mainland of China continues to grow at steady pace economically, and together with the Belt and Road Initiative, will open up many opportunities for trade and for our maritime and shipping sector.

By now, the Belt and Road Initiative has gone much beyond the initial vision statement in 2015. A highly successful Belt and Road Forum for International Co-operation was held in Beijing in May this year, attended by over 130 country delegations, including 29 heads of state and government. China also signed business and trade co-operation agreements with more than 30 countries during the Forum. These co-operation agreements will help boost international trade and generate more demand for shipping activities, including high value-added maritime services.

Connectivity is the lynchpin of the Belt and Road Initiative. With excellent regional and global connectivity, in both maritime and aviation links, and economically well integrated with the Mainland, Hong Kong is well-poised to serve as a “super-connector”.

Within the maritime industry, Hong Kong is fast growing in its maritime services. Last February, I led a Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board delegation visit to London and Hamburg to strengthen ties with the maritime services sector there, in particular in marine insurance, maritime arbitration and legal services as well as ship management.

The UK Department for Transport and two UK's maritime organisations, Maritime London and Maritime UK, are keen to work with Hong Kong in response to my call for a “London-Hong Kong Maritime Connect”, an initiative I had put forward during the visit. We are now discussing with the relevant parties to explore areas for closer collaboration, including joint promotion and manpower development.

To grasp the opportunities ahead, we will continue to leverage on our strengths to move up the value chain, so as to enhance our status and impact as an international maritime centre. In this regard, the government looks forward to the continuous support from HKSOA and the industry.

The new Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board is expected to become a major platform for Government-Industry collaboration, to help drive more proactive strategies. Our shipping sector, our port and our diverse maritime services, together sustain the Hong Kong Maritime Inc.

This year is the 60th Anniversary celebration of HKSOA. Throughout the past decades, HKSOA has contributed much to the development of Hong Kong's shipping and maritime industry, and has always been a close partner of the Government and a bulwark of Hong Kong's shipping sector. I look forward to HKSOA's continuing success.

On today's occasion, may I also warmly congratulate all the awardees for their dedication and support to Hong Kong's maritime family.

This is my last opportunity to address this annual gathering as Secretary. I wish you all the best in your business and endeavours. My heart will always be with the Hong Kong Maritime Inc.

Thank you very much.