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HKBIA seeks Government support to keep the leisure marine industry afloat

by Asia Yacht Press 14 May 03:29 PDT
Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter: needs to be properly planned and managed, not left to ad hoc `private development` © Guy Nowell

Hong Kong is home to the biggest concentration of pleasure boats in South East Asia, and is acknowledged as Asia’s most mature leisure boating community. But for how long? Recent months of restrictions have severely affected the business of the many SMEs that form the bulk of the industry in HK.

As a result of a recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Boating Industry Association (HKBIA), members confirmed that they felt this sector was missing out on local government support that is available currently available to other service industry sectors.

In a direct approach to Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam and relevant Government departments, the HKBIA has requested more support measures for the leisure marine sector in order to help it survive until the economy shows signs of recovery.

Short term solutions being suggested are the implementation of immediate cash handouts in line with those already given to retail and restaurants (up to HKD200,000), until Government subsidies can be enacted, job retention schemes including wage subsidies for salaried employees (80% of salaries up to a cap of $14,500/month for 6 months) and self-employed persons (based on declared average monthly salary levels.). Other measures outlined to help business survive included legislated rental reductions and increasing the value limit for 100% Government Guaranteed Loans, whilst allowing existing loans to be repackaged. Most importantly would be the relaxation of the government current restrictions preventing recreational boat usage for charter, sailing and racing, and allow the self-regulation of the required safety and social distancing rules.

All well and good, especially if some of these measures come to pass: however, it’s the longer-term solutions that could really to help the industry get back on its feet. Top of the list would be the development of public marina facilities in Hong Kong to stimulate industry growth. A good place to start here would be the Kai Tak / Kwun Tong typhoon shelter, where there is plenty of space for moorings - the lack of which has severely restricted the growth of the Hong Kong leisure marine industry’s growth – and the encouragement of international events and boat shows that could be usefully accommodated in the area. Other recommendations include the easier conversion of foreign boat operators’ licenses to local licenses, and the acceptance of what are otherwise considered to be ‘internationally recognised’ licences and certificates.

Hong Kong’s coastline and surrounding waterways involve 265 islands. The expansion of existing boating facilities would allow for the development of all manner of water sports and water based recreational activities, and provide public access to what is undoubtedly Hong Kong’s greatest natural recreational asset – the sea. This, in turn, would be beneficial to Hong Kong both economically and socially.

Expanding access to typhoon shelter moorings for vessels registered and permanently berthed in Hong Kong would help to reduce the pressure that results from a current lack of moorings. It would also contribute towards a more coordinated approach to the development of boating in the Greater Bay Area: boating infrastructure connections between Macau, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Shenzhen would see leisure marine opportunities multiplied tenfold.

Environmental issues are also addressed in the long-term recommendations made by the Association, and include allocating facilities for emptying grey water holding tanks in marinas and typhoon shelters, and finding better solutions to the disposal of obsolete boats by the promotion of recycling facilities.

The leisure boating industry in Hong Kong employs thousands of professionals and tradesmen, and is one of the fastest-growing work-force sectors in the SAR. The Hong Kong Boating Industry Association is the official representative of the industry, and aims to support its members throughout this period of crisis, and keep boating afloat in the future!

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