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.
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