Following is the opening address by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, at the 10th International Symposium on Vessel Traffic Services today (February 10) (English only):
SY [Tsui], Bill [O'Neil], Clive [Davidson], distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be here this morning to officiate at the opening of the 10th International Symposium on Vessel Traffic Services. As a world city and port, Hong Kong welcomes this opportunity to work with the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) to host this important event for the international maritime community. On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, I welcome you all to Hong Kong and wish you a rewarding symposium and an enjoyable stay in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a long history as a seaport. Located on one of the great trading routes of the world and being the main gateway to Southern China, the port of Hong Kong is a major marine transportation hub in the region. As you all know, China is the fastest growing economy in the world while the Pearl River Delta, which includes Hong Kong, is one of the most dynamic economic growth regions in China. Over the years, Hong Kong has been taking full advantage of our favourable location, our deep-water harbour and first-class infrastructure to serve the needs of our global trade. This has made us for nearly a decade the world's busiest container port - and indeed, we continued to be so last year by attaining a throughput of 20 million TEUs. But of course our port is more than just a container port. We handled 60 million tonnes of non-container cargoes. In shipping, over 35,000 ocean vessels and 182,000 river vessels, and 16.7 million passengers visited our port last year.
That Hong Kong has evolved from a small fishing port for vessels to anchor and take on their provisions while en route to Mainland China and other ports in northern Asia some 160 years ago to what it is today is not coincidental. It is due to the hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Hong Kong people who have provided the drive and enterprise to develop Hong Kong as a major trading centre. Today, as in the past, the Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to providing a favourable business environment and world-class infrastructure to facilitate our continued development as an international seaport. Through years of close cooperation between the private sector and the Government, we have made Hong Kong a major hub port and will continue to build on our proven strengths in the years ahead.
It is often said that world peace is underpinned by world trade and world trade is supported by world ports. Like many of the areas that you come from, the port industry is an important driver and a key contributor to Hong Kong's economy. With the continuous growth in global trade, the Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to providing an effective and responsive service to ensure that every ship that comes to our port can navigate safely in our waters and carry out business efficiently.
We strongly believe that an effective vessel traffic service is important to both the safety and efficiency of the port operations. Here in Hong Kong, our VTS [vessel traffic services] Centre was established in 1989. This centre, located on the top floor of the Macau Ferry Terminal in the central harbour, is equipped with an advanced, computerised vessel traffic monitoring system made up of nine radars covering all our major shipping areas and the approaches, together with a fully integrated radio and communication system. Unlike the old port communication centre, which was only provided with VHF radio and a hand-held telescope for the watch-keepers to check a vessel's movement at certain times and within line of sight, the VTS system enables us to provide a continuous and proactive traffic-management service to vessels visiting our port. The system is enhanced from time to time to cope with the increasing port traffic and international developments. More recently we have just completed a major upgrade of our VTS system to add more advanced capabilities and state-of-the-art technology. By way of a break from discussing technical papers, we have arranged for you a visit to our VTS centre as part of the programme.
Mariners, as they sail around the world these days, are expecting more comprehensive and better services on which they can rely to navigate safely and confidently into ports. We will not disappoint them and will take every step to improve the effectiveness of our service and the competence of our operators. A lot of work has also been done in these areas by your organisation, the IALA, and the industry as well. And much has been achieved over recent years through international cooperation and sharing of experience in forums like this. Indeed, the international symposiums on VTS provide a good opportunity for port managers, VTS operators and the industry to exchange ideas and work together for a better service to meet the needs of mariners. By sharing experiences, we will have better mutual understanding among ourselves in the further development of our services and, more importantly, identify a common ground in charting our way to providing a better VTS to the mariners in achieving the common goal of improving the safety of navigation world-wide.
While you are here, I hope you will take time out of your busy schedules to relax and enjoy yourselves. As the Secretary also responsible for tourism, I encourage you to spend some time exploring our city to experience our culture, our sights and sounds, good food and of course the joy of shopping. I can assure you that you will get value for money. The Hong Kong Tourism Board will be most happy to help if you need any assistance.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you all a successful symposium, an enjoyable stay in Hong Kong, and the best of everything in the Year of the Monkey. Thank you.
Ends/Tuesday, February 10, 2004