Finally acknowledging the brain drain of shipping expertise from local shores to rival maritime hubs, principally Singapore, the Hong Kong government has unveiled a scheme whereby shipping professionals will be among 11 skill types welcomed into the city with easier immigration processes.
Among the 11 professions earmarked to get priority to live in the city even if they do not have a job lined up yet are marine insurers, naval architects, marine engineers and ship superintendents.
“The talent list highlights specific professions needed most for Hong Kong’s economic development,” a government statement said.
Hong Kong was Asia’s preeminent maritime hub at the turn of the century, but has seen its lofty position overtaken by Singapore and also eroded by other shipping centres in China. In the last couple of years, however, the local government has started to look at ways to rebuild its maritime hub status.
In May this year, Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) released a research report, addressing the importance of developing a significant maritime financing and leasing industry in Hong Kong.
The report has recommended various measures for developing the maritime cluster in Hong Kong, including tax concessions for maritime firms; allowing qualified investors to access credit and liquidity enhancement products supported and/or endorsed by sovereign-rated financial institutions; full consultation with the industry on implementation of a tax review package; encouraging the growth of shipping and maritime-related support and management services; talent development in the maritime cluster; further double tax agreements with major shipping jurisdictions; increased participation in international industry bodies by Hong Kong-based organisations; and upgrading the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board or creating a centralised maritime office.
The belated efforts by local government to bolster the city’s shipping credentials have been noticed. The fifth annual Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index Report, published last month, saw Hong Kong overhaul London for the first time into second spot behind perennial rival Singapore.