YACHT: HONG KONG’S MISS­ING MA­RINA

There’s a rel­a­tively easy way to kick­start Kowloon East and get pri­vate money to pour into the area – let one of Hong Kong’s de­vel­op­ers fi­nally build a ma­rina in the Kwun Tong Ty­phoon Shel­ter.

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Contents - RYAN SWIFT Ryan Swift is the as­so­ciate pub­lisher and chief ed­i­tor of The Peak mag­a­zine, and for­mer ed­i­tor in chief of Asia-pa­cific Boat­ing mag­a­zine.

There’s a rel­a­tively easy way to kick­start Kowloon East and get pri­vate money to pour into the area – let de­vel­op­ers fi­nally build a ma­rina in the Kwun Tong Ty­phoon Shel­ter

Among yacht own­ers in Hong Kong, one of the most talked about sub­jects, apart from what a sur­pris­ingly good place the city is to go boat­ing, is the des­per­ate need for berthing spa­ces for plea­sure ves­sels. While few would say that the needs of Hong Kong’s yacht own­ers con­sti­tute an emer­gency (there are plenty of other is­sues to deal with), build­ing a ma­rina could be a rel­a­tively sim­ple way to achieve some other de­vel­op­men­tal goals, fore­most among them, breath­ing life into Kowloon East and CBD2.

Yacht mari­nas around the world do a lot of things be­sides func­tion as park­ing places for ex­pen­sive on-wa­ter toys. Within cities, they be­come cen­tres of de­sir­abil­ity, host­ing restau­rants and bars, clubs and fa­cil­i­ties of all stripes, and these draw wealthy yacht own­ers as well as peo­ple just wish­ing to en­joy the at­mos­phere. They are also the fo­cal point of a host of busi­nesses, big and small, that pro­vides goods and ser­vices to own­ers.

Add a ma­rina into the Kwun Tong Ty­phoon Shel­ter (the wa­ter space bounded by Kai Tak and Kowloon East), and you could cer­tainly give the area a life­style at­mos­phere it cur­rently lacks. The shel­ter is al­ready pro­tected by a break­wa­ter, which is nor­mally the most ex­pen­sive thing to build in a ma­rina pro­ject. In other words, a de­vel­oper could take over the area, build a ma­rina quite quickly and with rel­a­tively lit­tle ex­pense. Given the pent up de­mand for yachts in Hong Kong (most yacht bro­kers com­plain loudly that their busi­ness in Hong Kong is dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble), there is lit­tle doubt that a new ma­rina would fill up quickly.

It is true that Kwun Tong Ty­phoon Shel­ter is ear­marked for ves­sels to use in the event of a ty­phoon, but stud­ies into the mat­ter demon­strated years ago that Hong Kong’s many ty­phoon shel­ters are very much un­der­utilised. Why not con­vert a piece of Hong Kong’s old in­fra­struc­ture into some­thing that can find new use and re­vi­talise a neigh­bour­hood to­day?

I asked this ques­tion to the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of one of Hong Kong’s lead­ing de­vel­op­ers, which has a sub­stan­tial stake in the Kowloon East area. Though he was more than happy to build a ma­rina, he said the Hong Kong Ma­rine Depart­ment proved too dif­fi­cult to deal with, de­mand­ing noise stud­ies among other things.

Note, there is a high­way that goes right past this area, while a cruise ship ter­mi­nal ex­ists on the other side, so I’m not sure how a per­son would hear noise from a yacht, let alone how a de­vel­oper could rea­son­ably con­duct such a study. Af­ter be­ing asked about the sub­ject, the Ma­rine Depart­ment said in an of­fi­cial state­ment that the de­vel­op­ment of mari­nas is not un­der its purview. Other de­vel­op­ers have said that get­ting per­mis­sion for a new ma­rina can re­quire get­ting two de­part­ments to work to­gether – a dif­fi­cult task in Hong Kong.

The Ma­rine Depart­ment nor­mally deals with mat­ters re­lated to com­mer­cial ship­ping, but is also tasked with plea­sure ves­sels. The depart­ment has said that the num­ber of plea­sure ves­sels (li­censed by the Ma­rine Depart­ment) in Hong Kong has gone from 5741 in 2007 to 9748 in 2016. Yet, the last new ma­rina to be built in Hong Kong was in 1991, at Gold Coast.

Auck­land, New Zealand’s largest city, has grasped its op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the yacht in­dus­try, re­de­vel­op­ing old in­dus­trial ar­eas into ma­rina fa­cil­i­ties that have turned the area into a mag­net for tourism. Along the south coast of France and Italy, the num­ber of mari­nas and the seafront jobs they cre­ate are plain for any vis­i­tor to see. Sin­ga­pore has even grasped this point, with ma­jor ma­rina pro­jects be­ing built over the last ten years that have changed the wa­ter­front and cre­ated new ar­eas that are fo­cal points of en­joy­ment. The Sin­ga­pore Yacht Show, which at­tracts the world’s big­gest brands and buy­ers, now fills the One°15 Ma­rina every

April, and the ma­rina it­self, com­pleted only a few years ago, is now full.

In fact, the show’s or­gan­is­ers had orig­i­nally wanted to stage an event in Hong Kong, as this was the more ac­tive yacht mar­ket, but with no se­ri­ous place to go, it had to be Sin­ga­pore.

Hong Kong de­vel­op­ers have pro­posed mari­nas be­fore, but of­ten in ar­eas that would re­quire a com­pletely new build, in­clud­ing a break­wa­ter. Two plans cen­tre on re­de­vel­op­ing stretches of Lamma Is­land’s south­ern shores, though no roads con­nect Lamma Is­land to Hong Kong Is­land, and this is one of the pre­req­ui­sites for any such pro­ject.

More­over, a pro­ject far re­moved from Hong Kong’s Vic­to­ria Har­bour would leave lit­tle ben­e­fit for the larger pub­lic.

Al­ready, some pri­vate yachts can be seen moor­ing in­side the Kwun Tong Ty­phoon Shel­ter. Oth­ers can be found seek­ing moor­ings at var­i­ous other shel­ters and old cargo han­dling basins. Own­ers are al­ready look­ing for new places to berth their boats, and yet the pos­si­bil­i­ties for ser­vice-ori­ented re­de­vel­op­ment have so far been ig­nored.

THE SHOW’S OR­GAN­IS­ERS HAD WANTED TO STAGE AN EVENT IN HONG KONG, AS THIS WAS THE MORE AC­TIVE YACHT MAR­KET, BUT WITH NO SE­RI­OUS PLACE TO GO, IT HAD TO BE SIN­GA­PORE

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