As Hong Kong’s container terminal sector suffers yet another annual decline in volumes and slips down the global rankings to number seven in the world, it would be easy to think that the shipping sector as a whole is following the exodus of boxes over the border to the Mainland.
However, in other shipping sectors the reverse is true and Hong Kong’s new administration has elevated the importance of shipping to the city’s economy and is funding new initiatives and incentives to attract a broad range of shipping companies to the Special Administrative Region (SAR).
Singapore has for a long time been the destination of choice for shipowners and ship services companies. However, there are signs that this may change as a surge of capital from Chinese leasing companies pours into shipping and Hong Kong is their city of choice to set up shop.
Peter Mellet, Managing Director, BMS Group is equally optimistic that the maritime insurance sector will flourish in Hong Kong, saying that the main drivers for Hong Kong’s potential as a maritime insurance hub are location, China and shipowners.
“There is a maritime focus already (in Hong Kong) and clients are close at hand. As the world moves east to Asia then so will shipping services, and insurance is a natural addition to all of the other needs of a thriving shipping community,” he told Forward with Toll news website recently.
China government policy is also aggressively supporting shipping and the country already boasts global players in shipbuilding, shipowning and legal services. Mellett sees maritime insurance following on from this as Hong Kong already has the international finance and insurance infrastructure and expertise in place.
In the ship management sector, Hong Kong is a global leader and all the world’s leading managers are long-term residents, including Anglo Eastern, Fleet and BSM. The strength of this cluster is partly explained by the many Indian superintendents who have called Hong Kong home for 50 years or more and form the backbone of many ship management companies.
The roots are deep and the expertise and experience of the Indian shipping expatriate community has consolidated Hong Kong’s role as the world’s ship management capital. Most of the major global commercial fleet is now managed by Hong Kong-based companies.
The foundations and commercial successes of Hong Kong have been solidified by building the city into a global financial, shipping and trading centre. Despite the tectonic changes over the last century and a half in these key sectors, Hong Kong has a knack for reinventing itself and prospering. With Government support from both China and Hong Kong the future of shipping looks bright.