Date: 20th November 2023
Hong Kong’s advantages as a global maritime hub remain numerous and resilient, feel local shipping industry players, the territory having survived political unrest and China’s prolonged zero-covid policy with its cherished ‘One Nation, Two Systems’ economic freedoms intact.
Outgoing head of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA), executive director of shipowner Valles Steamship, provides a broad overview. “As an international maritime centre, Hong Kong maintains a leading position owing to both its unique strengths and competitive edge: its connectivity with the world and its integration with the Greater Bay Area, as well as its central geographical location, its deep-water port with good infrastructure, the accessibility of travel, the ease of doing business, free flow of capital, people and cargo, low and simple taxation, and a robust legal system with common law in the core.”
The city’s cultural blend of East meets West is just as relevant today as it was before
The chief operating officer at The Caravel Group and incoming chairman of the HKSOA, agrees, characterising the city’s strengths as “multifaceted and comprehensive. Besides “a strong maritime industry ecosystem” and the territory’s “great geographical position” within Asia and as a key gateway to mainland China, Hong Kong possesses “sound legal frameworks and arbitration systems, strengths in innovation and an extensive talent pool,” he continues. “This includes local talent who speak fluent English, Cantonese and – increasingly importantly from a newbuilding perspective in particular – mandarin.”
The client marketing director at Lloyd’s Register reckons that the city’s “cultural blend of East meets West is just as relevant today as it was before. In some ways, even more so, as Hong Kong can build the bridge to the now globally largest ship ownership community in Greater China. International nomads, who want a stable platform for global operations might vie for Singapore and Dubai, but the North Asian business landscape has every reason to think Hong Kong.”
The managing director of BSM (Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement) Hong Kong, mentions the local maritime community’s “depth of knowledge, diversity of experience, and an unwavering commitment to continuous change. Even as general conditions and business environment evolve, we remain an international premier maritime centre providing extensive business opportunities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.”
Hong Kong is also “pre-eminent” as a global banking and financial centre, points out by head of SeaQuest Shipmanagement, with a large pool of talented professionals, as well as excellent infrastructure – including efficient airport, port, logistics network and supply chain management. Then there are its relatively low taxation rates and a government “known to be business-friendly and protective of intellectual property rights.” It’s no coincidence that several of the largest ship management companies in the world are based in Hong Kong, he remarks.
Plus there’s the legacy factors of Hong Kong having a number of well-established shipowners as well as managers, adds the health and security service firm International SOS who feels the territory still serves as a “super-connector for mainland maritime enterprises to go global”, thanks to its “global vision, no currency control and sound legal system.”
The managing director of one of the most important of those legacy shipowners, Wah Kwong, refers to Hong Kong’s maritime history stretching back over 150 years, which has allowed the city to establish itself as a prominent hub for maritime services. “Hong Kong’s advantageous geographical location has provided a solid foundation for the growth of sectors such as ship finance, insurance, and legal services,” he says, as evidenced, for example, by the presence of 12 out of the 13 International Group P&I Clubs.
The group managing director of Modern Terminals offers a maritime trade-specific perspective. “Over the years, Hong Kong has developed into an international transhipment hub. It is a free port where goods can come in and out freely and has been benefiting from the cabotage rule and the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ arrangement.
Also, the high efficiency and flexibility of operations and quality of our human capital are also appreciated by shipping lines, shippers, and all stakeholders in the logistics chain.”
The founder and chief executive officer of new ship leasing company SeaKapital, likewise commends Hong Kong’s “human capital” in the form of its “knowledge in legal, tax and regulatory related matters. Hong Kong is second to none In terms of identifying and addressing regulatory matters,” he believes, “especially those that are finance, ESG or shipping related.”
The partner and head of the Hong Kong office for law firm Hill Dickinson elaborates that Hong Kong’s “status as the only common law jurisdiction in China, coupled with its pool of experienced maritime lawyers and arbitrators and its internationally renowned Admiralty Court and Commercial Court, have always made it a uniquely attractive forum for resolving China-related maritime disputes and, more recently, disputes related to the ‘Belt and Road’ countries.” Little wonder then that Hill Dickinson has just announced the appointment of 10 new hires to its HK office, to strengthen its marine and shipping practice across the region.
The chairman of KC Maritime pays tribute to the city’s “complete eco-system for a shipping company to thrive and grow – flag, owners, charterers, banks and financial institutions, lawyers, classification societies, P&I clubs and so on.” He also gives credit to the HKSOA for having been “very active in its initiatives to further the interest of Hong Kong-based shipowners, with a focus on sustainable growth, and there is close co-operation and coordination in improving the nature of the shipping business and in turn the image of Hong Kong.”
The in charge of chartering and projects for shipowner /operator Cetus Maritime commends the nurturing and development opportunities on offer. “There are so many fantastic opportunities to develop your career here, the vibrant, diverse, and supportive maritime community is always happy to support young professionals looking to advance their careers,” she says, adding: “I came to this city nearly 15 years ago with no experience at all in the maritime industry, but I had the support of my company, bosses, mentors, and friends to develop a fantastic, fun, and rewarding career here.”
The founding partner of Latitude Brokers pays tribute to Hong Kong’s “long-standing, well-established owners and manager/operator companies which have stood the test of time and of the covid crisis”, and also introduces mention of the Captain’s Table as an example of future-facing private innovation. Above all, “Our relationships with mainland China still provide us with a unique proposition,” she feels.
Ince & Co. Hong Kong partner sums it all up succinctly by saying: “The rule of law, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy, an independent judiciary, and our all-round excellent maritime services are our trump cards.”