Ed­ward Liu points out that ship­ping busi­ness has weighed an­chor and sailed to other ports, at­tracted by in­cen­tives from re­gional ri­vals

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Hong Kong’s tra­di­tional role as a “bridge” be­tween the Chi­nese main­land and rest of the world has un­de­ni­ably been di­min­ish­ing. The city is still seen as an in­ter­na­tional ship­ping and trad­ing cen­ter but rel­e­vant in­dus­tries have de­clined steadily as ports in the Pearl River Delta have risen, and the main­land’s man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try has trans­formed.

An un­fa­vor­able ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment was one rea­son be­hind Hong Kong’s de­cline. Gov­ern­ments of neigh­bor­ing coun­tries and cities of­fer strong sup­port to their ship­ping in­dus­tries. Thus the SAR Gov­ern­ment must take ac­tion to re­verse the trend.

While on the cam­paign trail, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowed to de­vise poli­cies to add value to the ship­ping and lo­gis­tics in­dus­tries, strengthen Hong Kong’s global com­pet­i­tive­ness in ship­ping and pro­mote sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of ship­ping.

This fol­lowed the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s state­ment in the 13th Five-year Plan (201620) is­sued in March last year that Hong Kong should “con­tinue to con­sol­i­date and de­velop” its role as an in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial, ship­ping and trade cen­ter.

The new SAR gov­ern­ment should ex­plore sub­stan­tial mea­sures to re­vi­tal­ize the sec­tor.

The ship­ping in­dus­try wel­comed es­tab­lish­ment of the Hong Kong Mar­itime and Port Board (HKMPB) last year which has, to a cer­tain ex­tent, an ef­fect on pro­mot­ing Hong Kong’s high-end ship­ping ser­vices and fa­cil­i­tated de­vel­op­ment of the in­dus­try.

How­ever, the board is not a statu­tory body and has no in­de­pen­dent fund source which may sway its ef­fec­tive­ness in tack­ling the sec­tor’s de­vel­op­ment prob­lems.

In the long term, the gov­ern­ment should trans­form the HKMPB into an in­de­pen­dent statu­tory body and let it re­cruit tal­ents ex­ten­sively. By up­hold­ing the prin­ci­ple of mer­i­toc­racy, the board should be able to at­tract more tal­ents to join in its man­age­ment and day-to-day op­er­a­tions, mak­ing The au­thor is a ship­ping law ex­pert and a se­nior reg­is­tered for­eign lawyer.

it­self rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sional sec­tors within Hong Kong’s ship­ping in­dus­try.

Mean­while, tak­ing into ac­count the highly com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the global ship­ping in­dus­try, the gov­ern­ment needs to split the Trans­port and Hous­ing Bureau into two.

Of course, the re­vamp takes time. A statu­tory HKMPB should work with in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions, such as the Hong Kong Shipown­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, to truly be the “or­ga­nizer, pro­moter and fa­cil­i­ta­tor” of Hong Kong’s port and high-end ship­ping ser­vice in­dus­tries.

More­over, ship reg­is­tra­tion has al­ways been a ma­jor ad­van­tage and high­light of Hong Kong’s ship­ping in­dus­try. Since 1997, the num­ber of ships reg­is­tered in Hong Kong has in­creased from about 400 to more than 2,500 and the gross ton­nage of all reg­is­tered ships has reached 110 mil­lion tons. Hong Kong is the fourth-largest ship reg­is­ter­ing do­main in the world.

With the rapid growth of reg­is­tered ships, the trea­sury col­lected an in­creas­ing amount

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