Opening Remarks by STH at the Seatrade Maritime Awards Asia 2017 Ceremony (English only)23 June 2017

Following is the opening remarks by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at the Seatrade Maritime Awards Asia 2017 Ceremony on 23 June 2017:

Mr (Jime) Essink (CEO, UBM Asia), Mr (Michael) Duck (Executive Vice President, UBM Asia), Mr (Marcus) Hand (Chairman of the Seatrade Maritime Awards Asia Judging Panel), Ms (Vanessa) Stephens(Managing Director, Seatrade Middle East), Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening. It is my great pleasure to join you all here at this special event.

The annual Seatrade Maritime Awards Asia is a prestigious event to give recognition to outstanding companies in the Asia-Pacific region for their achievements in the maritime industry. This year marks its 10th anniversary. We are delighted that this celebratory occasion takes place in Hong Kong. I would also like to extend my warmest welcome to friends coming afar to join the ceremony.

My warmest congratulations to all the 15 awardees tonight! They are selected under very stringent criteria. It is not easy to impress upon the judges, and it is even harder to stand out in today's dynamic and challenging global economic environment. The awardees have truly distinguished themselves by their vision and innovation. They set good examples for striving for excellence.

I must say, the voyage of the global shipping market in the past few years has not been smooth. Following a sharp decline in 2015 by 12.8%, international trade was further affected by the faltering global demand and continued to drop by 3.2% in 2016. There are signs of improvement in the first half of this year, however black-swan events such as Brexit, the rise of protectionist sentiments and heightened geopolitical tensions in some parts of the world have caused uncertainties to the global economy.

This notwithstanding, Asia stands out as performing better than other parts of the world. According to the International Monetary Fund forecast, the Asia-Pacific region will continue to outperform the rest of the world with GDP growth at 5.5% this year.

Within Asia, Mainland China's economy continues to grow steadily, with GDP growth forecast to be 6.5%. Last year, nine of the world's top ten container ports are in Asia, of which seven are in China, including Hong Kong, clearly pointing to China's growing importance in international cargo trade, being both the world's largest manufacturer and consumer market.

China's newly launched Belt and Road Initiative, the gaining momentum in Asia-Pacific trade, and the expansion of transit passages in Panama Canal and Suez Canal, have all injected impetus to seaborne trade. Hence we should stay positive about the long-term growth potential and opportunities brought about by these developments to international shipping.

Zooming in, it is not far-fetched to say that Hong Kong has been staying strong in the region when we check out the billboard. According to World Competitiveness ranking announced by the International Institute for Management Development, Hong Kong holds the top spot for the second year in a row. Hong Kong is the world's 7th largest trading economy, with international trade supported by a vibrant maritime community and an efficient port, as well as a strong cluster of high value-added maritime services.

As a super-connector, Hong Kong has become an ideal platform for Mainland maritime enterprises to “go global”, and for foreign enterprises to enter Asia and the Chinese market, using Hong Kong as a gateway and regional base. Over 10 Mainland shipping-related companies are currently listed in Hong Kong, such as COSCO Shipping (中遠海運), Chu Kong Shipping (珠江船務) and , Sinotrans (中國外運).

The fostering of a new Bay Area cooperation framework among Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau is expected to provide a new engine of innovation and growth, further sharpening Hong Kong's leading and pioneering role in finance, trade, professional services, maritime and aviation.

Of course, Hong Kong has to continue to consolidate and enhance its strengths, and to stay competitive in all aspects. As a famous author William Arthur Ward once said, "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails".

Our Government recognizes the importance of cross-sector collaboration. That's exactly why we set up the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board in April last year. Comprising leading figures and representatives from various sectors of Hong Kong's maritime industry, the Board is a high-level body to unify efforts to grow Hong Kong's international maritime centre, and to promote high value-added maritime services.

Our annual Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference is already in its 6th edition, attended by 2 000 participants from over 30 countries and regions. Last year, we organized the first-ever Hong Kong Maritime Industry Week. The second Hong Kong Maritime Week will be held this November. I take the opportunity here to cordially invite you to participate in the Week's events and exhibitions.

Hong Kong continues to believe that government must not seek to replace the market. Our market, given the right conditions, is in the best position to drive innovation and growth. However, Government needs to be a proactive enabler and facilitator. Government needs to work closer with the industry and provide supportive policies and infrastructure.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Seatrade Maritime Awards are amongst the most esteemed honours in the industry. I am pleased to know that some Hong Kong companies are shortlisted for the Awards. I am sure they have been all doing an excellent job. Their contribution to Hong Kong's maritime development is much appreciated.

Thank you and have a great night.