There was a collective groan among Hong Kong’s shipowners when it was announced at the end of August there was another change at the Marine Department, a government body that has been somewhat of a revolving door in terms of senior appointments in recent years.
“We’ll have to start all over again,” one owner confided to Maritime CEO, on efforts by the private sector to get across to government the issues affecting maritime in the territory.
Michael Wong stepped down as director of the Marine Department, the government organisation tasked with looking after port affairs and the territory’s very large shipping register, to be replaced by Maisie Cheng. Wong had been in the position for just 18 months.
Aged 54, Cheng has served in various bureaux and departments including being deputy secretary for transport and housing from February 2010 to June 2012. She had been director of government logistics since January 2013.
Cheng takes on the role with plenty in her intray, as evidenced in many of the the pages of a new magazine on Hong Kong published by Splash today. Making the department – and especially the register – more responsive was among the key pleas by the 250 people surveyed for Splash’s magazine.
“As the director of the Marine Department,” Cheng tells Maritime CEO in one of her first interviews in the new job, “I aspire to work closely with my colleagues to promote excellence in marine services, to ensure safe operation of the port and all Hong Kong waters as well as to operate the Hong Kong Shipping Register (HKSR) and safeguard the quality of the Hong Kong registered ships.”
The register passed the 100m gross ton mark at the end of September and is the fourth largest in the world. Its fast growth has not necessarily been met with a commensurate increase of people at the Marine Department, local owners have complained.
Cheng is adamant however that more will be done to improve service levels at the flag.
“The HKSR will continue to enhance its services and provide shipowners with technical support and advice,” Cheng insists. In addition, she says the Marine Department will continue to improve its coordination with relevant mainland authorities to provide better protection for Hong Kong-registered ships when they are in international waters and in foreign ports.