The cost of vessel procurement is the largest expenditure item for a shipping enterprise. Ship finance business generally involves a financial institution offering a loan to a company or an individual as the capital required for the purchase of second-hand vessels or the construction of new vessels. In addition to the traditional ship mortgage, financial institutions also provide a variety of services that meet the needs of ship owners, such as sale and lease back, initial public offering of shares, issuance of bonds and cash management.
Hong Kong, a well-known international ship finance centre in Asia, provides comprehensive ship finance services to the maritime industry. Apart from offering professional services, Hong Kong is located advantageously in terms of time zone for communication with trading partners in other commercial centres. Furthermore, Hong Kong possesses excellent communication systems and a sound legal system, and is supported by a sophisticated judicial system.
Ship finance is a specialised field. Only a few financial institutions in Hong Kong provide credit facilities to vessels. Such financial institutions include some long-established European banks as well as local banks.
The academic qualifications of the ship finance practitioners vary – business administration, economic studies, accounting, finance and engineering to name but a few. Given the expertise required in this field, ship finance practitioners should have a general understanding of the maritime economy and the modes of operation of ship owners. They also need to have knowledge of various areas, such as international law, insurance, broking, chartering and financing.