Following is the speech by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, at the reception of Seatrade London at ExCel on September 17 (London time) (English only):
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to meet all of you at this reception. I would like to thank the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for giving me this opportunity to introduce the maritime services offered by Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a number of attractions unparalleled by other countries in our region. We are gifted with one of the finest natural harbours in the world and strategically located at the doorstep of Pearl River Delta, the most dynamic economic region in Asia with double-digit GDP growth in the last five years. Given the cargo growth from this "factory of the world", Hong Kong remains the world's top container port with a record throughput of 19.1 million TEUs in 2002.
Concurrently, our shipping and maritime sectors have been progressing with matching success. Although Hong Kong is only a very small city in terms of size, our shipowners and managers control about 8% of the world's tonnage with over 1,000 vessels at 36 million gross tons.
You may be aware that Hong Kong is the world's seventh largest shipping centre. Our Shipping Register has continued to attract top quality tonnage. It has been evidenced by a healthy growth in the last few years, from 5.7 million gross tons in 1997 to 18.7 million gross tons this year. The success of our Register can be attributed to a number of measures taken, including a reduction in registration and annual tonnage fee, provision of one-stop services for registration, free-of-charge Flag State Quality Control inspection by our well-qualified surveyors and excellent port state control record. In addition, Hong Kong has also made double taxation relief arrangements with seven major trading partners to reduce tax burden of our shipowners. Negotiations with several other trading partners are in progress.
Furthermore, there are some 800 shipping related companies operating in Hong Kong, providing high quality maritime finance, insurance, legal, arbitration, brokerage, ship management, ship registration and ship surveying services. These elements produce a synergy to make Hong Kong Asia's premier maritime services centre.
As accelerated by the accession of China to the WTO, we are already seeing increasing international interest in China. Moreover, we have just signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement or what we called CEPA, with Mainland China which permits Hong Kong companies and service providers earlier access to the Mainland market ahead of China's WTO time table.
To explore shipping opportunities in Asia and tap into the enormous market of China, Hong Kong is always your natural partner. I sincerely hope that you will consider Hong Kong as a base and place your ships on the Hong Kong Shipping Register. If you want to know the details, the Director of Marine, Mr Tsui (Shung Yiu) and I would be more than delighted to tell you more afterwards.
End/Thursday, September 18, 2003