In her annual Policy Address, Hong Kong Government’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, announced a range of measures to support and improve the development of high value-added maritime services.

One of the highlights was that the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board has been commissioned to set up a task force to help enhance Hong Kong’s position as a regional ship leasing centre.

Tax relief will be introduced to promote the development of maritime insurance and underwriting of specialty risks. The Chief Executive also sanctioned a review of regulations to facilitate a Protection & Indemnity (P&I) Club for shipowners in Hong Kong and Government support to establish a Maritime Arbitration Centre in the city.

US$25 million will be added to a maritime and aviation training fund to enhance and attract young talent in the shipping and aviation sectors.

Chief Executive Lam also said that there will be closer collaboration between Government and the shipping sector to promote the city as a base for overseas companies to establish their maritime and transport businesses.

Citing the reasons behind the Government initiative she highlighted the headwinds impacting Hong Kong’s shipping sector.

“Despite Hong Kong’s clear strengths, maintaining the competitiveness of our maritime sector remains a formidable challenge. Slightly more than a decade ago, Hong Kong Port was ranked first worldwide in total throughput handled. Last year, it finished fifth, a slide attributable to fierce competition from regional ports coupled with internal constraints in land and manpower supply and international economic uncertainties,” said Ms. Lam.

Ms. Lam also said that there were national developments and initiatives such as Belt and Road and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Greater Bay Area. Of the Bay Area project Ms. Lam said that this will bring together 70 million people with an aggregate GDP of US$1.5 trillion.

Jeremy Choi of PwC told the South China Morning Post that the government should also introduce tax incentives in the hi-tech industry as well as the maritime and ship financing industry to diversify the economy, protecting Hong Kong from global uncertainties.

PwC also urged encouraging growth of maritime and ship leasing management to strengthen Hong Kong’s role as a major port in Southern China. In the past 10 years, more than half of Hong Kong’s GDP and employment came from financial services, trading and logistics, tourism and professional services.