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Speech by PSED at HKSOA/MD Luncheon (English only)

    Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Economic Development, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) and Marine Department (MD) Joint Luncheon today (February 15) (English only):

David, Roger, Arthur, members of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     I am delighted to address such a distinguished audience today. I think I am speaking to the "Who's who" in the Hong Kong shipping and maritime community.  It is my great pleasure to officiate at this Award Presentation Ceremony for the Hong Kong Shipping Register.

     Judging from the many smiling faces I see today, it is no wonder that the economic contribution of the maritime sector has grown significantly since 1997.  In the past decade, the average value added per employee in key maritime services rose by 170% to $790,000 per person.  This is more than matched by our Shipping Register, which has grown by almost five times from 5.7 million gross tonnage in 1997 to 33.2 million in January 2007.  The Hong Kong maritime sector now contributes about 2.5% to the GDP of Hong Kong, and is actually on a par, in terms of importance to our GDP with economic sectors such as tourism, construction, professional services, ranging from 2% to 3% of our GDP.

     We have seen robust growth for the global shipping and maritime industry in recent years and I wish it many more to come.  Riding on this wave, the HKSR has maintained steady and healthy growth too since it was re-engineered in 1990.  With the Very Large Crude-Oil Carrier aptly named "BW Bauhinia" owned by World-wide Shipping joining the register, we crossed the 33 million gross tonnage mark in mid January 2007; this has strengthened Hong Kong's position among the world's five largest shipping registers.  While the size of our fleet and its world ranking are important indicators, we feel that the quality and range of services we can offer to ship owners probably matter more.  The rapid growth of our Register can be attributed to two factors: first, good partnership between the Government and the industry, in particular, the HKSOA, in promoting the HKSR; and secondly, the excellent reputation of the HKSR for the quality of our fleet and the services provided by the Marine Department.

     However, we are keenly aware that the HKSR does face fierce competition from other international shipping registries.  In order to encourage sustained growth, we launched the six-month annual tonnage charge reduction scheme in February 2006.  Hong Kong ship owners can enjoy a six-month fee reduction for every two years, provided that their ships have not been detained during that period.  Starting from February 1 this year, the first batch of Hong Kong registered ships (about 5% of the total) will qualify for this reduction in tonnage fee.

     To further improve on our co-operation with the local shipping and maritime industry, in March last year the Marine Department set up the Customer Relations Group (CRG) with members representing various sectors of the local shipping service industry and the fleet on the HKSR.  I encourage everyone here to make use of this additional channel to reflect your views on initiatives to improve our shipping services.

     We also appreciate that, in face of rapid expansion, shipping lines and shipping companies are facing challenges in the recruitment of maritime professionals.  We are therefore working to ensure the supply of maritime professionals that is crucial to the development of our shipping and maritime industry.  To encourage more young people to join the industry and with the full support of the MIC, we launched the Sea-going Training Incentive Scheme to alleviate the shortage of home-grown ex-seagoing professionals to fill shore-based positions.  

     We also launched the Ship Repair Training Incentive Scheme in 2006 to attract qualified personnel to join the industry and to encourage young people to take up apprenticeships at the shipyards. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the industry participants for their strong support in providing employment and training opportunities to the cadets and apprentices.

     The shipping industry has taken tremendous strides in the past decade.  To commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the reunification of the HKSAR with the Mainland and to recognise the contribution of the industry, the MIC and the Marine Department will launch a Maritime Scholarship in the next few months to attract talented individuals from Hong Kong and the Mainland to take up a post-graduate programme in Hong Kong, with a view to encouraging a greater number of graduates to join the industry. A total of HK$4 million has been set aside for the Scheme.

     We must also make sure that shipping communities around the world get to understand the advantages offered by Hong Kong.  To this end, we organise regular shipping missions to and seminars in major port cities on the Mainland to introduce the maritime services available in Hong Kong.  The feedback on these efforts from the industry on the Mainland is very encouraging indeed.  Here I must thank MIC members and leaders of the maritime and shipping sector for sparing their time to join these missions to act as ambassadors for Hong Kong.

     In the year ahead, we plan to send a shipping mission to Dalian, to organise the Maritime Week 2007 in October, and to take part in Marintech China 2007 in Shanghai.  I would encourage all of you to join us in promoting Hong Kong and expanding our business networks at these events.

     We have also stepped up promotion within Hong Kong to enhance understanding by the community on the development of Hong Kong as a maritime and shipping centre, in particular, to attract young people to get interested in a career as a maritime professional. Some of you might have seen the two part TV programme sponsored by the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council.  So far I have heard very encouraging feedback on the programme, that it has portrayed well the diverse and dynamic maritime services we offer.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, Hong Kong's maritime sector has continued to flourish because of the dedication and hard work by people in this room, some of whom we will be duly recognising in a moment by the awards they will receive.  In the run up to the 10th Anniversary of our reunification with the Mainland, it is appropriate to thank our industry for its enormous contribution and to emphasise once again that we welcome ship owners and managers to use Hong Kong as a base to develop their maritime business.

     I would also like to congratulate the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) on its coming 50th Anniversary.  Throughout its 50-year history, HKSOA has been highly regarded by all involved in shipping in Hong Kong.  The Association has contributed much to the shipping and maritime industry, both in this region through its membership of the Asian Shipowners Forum, and worldwide as a member of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Shipping Federation (ISF). HKSOA members are active participants in international shipping fora, thereby helping to cement Hong Kong's high standards in the world of maritime services.

     In closing, I would like to thank HKSOA and the Marine Department, in particular David and Roger for organising today's event.  And I wish members of our maritime community very good health and every success in their business endeavours in the year of the Pig.  Thank you!

Ends/Thursday, February 15, 2007
Issued at HKT 15:34


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