Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, soured 60th anniversary celebrations at the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) last night by refusing to acquiesce to the local maritime community’s pleas to give shipping more of a separate statutory body.
Shipping has been lumped with the local transport and housing bureau for many years to the chagrin of local owners who fear the city is losing its pre-eminence as a shipping hub thanks to a lack of focus from government.
Incoming new chairman of the HKSOA, Jack Hsu from Oak Maritime, used his opening address last night to ask Lam, the guest of honour, to give shipping a greater, more unique role within the government set up.
“I would like to thank our government for its initiative in setting up the Maritime and Port Board, which has addressed some of the concerns of the maritime sector. Of course, we would much prefer a statutory body in the longer run to take on the work,” Hsu said, adding: “We hope the government will create an independent, statutory maritime authority to work closely with the industry in adjusting existing policy, and developing new initiatives, in order to improve the competitive nature of our maritime sector.”
The HKSOA boss also called for the establishment of a dedicated policy bureau with sufficient resources to drive the long-term development of the maritime, aviation, ports and logistics sectors. This could be achieved, Hsu suggested, by separating the transport branch from housing.
However, the suggestion is unlikely to be legislated with Lam, who became Hong Kong’s leader earlier this year, saying that she could not see the bureau being split in two.