BY APB Staff on 4 Mar 2021

HKBIA's Lawrence Chow says that reclaiming Hei Ling Chau may help push for new berths and moorings

Hong Kong boat owners searching for a mooring may hopefully get some relief. As of November 2020, Hong Kong’s Marine Department has laid out a plan to add 200 more private moorings in the Sai Kung area, near the village of Tso Wo Hang. Construction of the new moorings has not yet started, however.

Lawrence Chow, chairman of the Hong Kong Boating Industry Association (HKBIA), said that the organisation has been pushing for new moorings and better boating facilities. The Marine Department calculates that there is enough mooring and anchorage space for Hong Kong’s fleet of pleasure vessels by including the area of Hei Ling Chau Typhoon Shelter.

The shelter is essentially unusable for leisure vessels as it lacks proper access and facilities, according to Chow.

“With the Lantau Tomorrow programme, which will see Hei Ling Chau filled in, they (the Marine Department) will no longer have the extra mooring spaces on their book. So, the HKBIA is trying to create a ‘springboard for discussion’ about where some new moorings can go that will be accessible and practical for boaters,” Chow told Asia-Pacific Boating.

The HKBIA says there are over 10,000 private leisure vessels in Hong Kong, with 49% being motor yachts. Approximately 31% are sailboats and the remaining 20% are outboard vessels. The association estimates there are about 2000 berths and private moorings in Hong Kong, with another 1900 public moorings. Hong Kong’s shortage of berthing and mooring spaces for yachts and pleasure vessels is well known. The only marina development in Hong Kong in the past two decades has been the renovation of the Lantau Yacht Club, which opened last fall.

In a presentation on February 25 to the members of the HKBIA, Paul Zimmerman, a member of the Hong Kong District Council for Southern District, outlined proposals for new marinas and mooring harbours in Hong Kong. He argued that poor facilities for leisure vessels hurt small, local boat owners as much as yacht owners, with owners having to climb over railings or wade through murky water to reach their modest boats.

Zimmerman said that the Kai Tak Typhoon Shelter, which is already being used by pleasure vessels as an anchorage, has been earmarked for water sports, but nothing has been set aside for new moorings or berth spaces. The areas he has proposed for breakwater development to increase sheltered areas are the old quarry at Shek-O, Stanley Bay, The Eastern Channel at Tseung Kwan O and Pak Shek Kok in Tolo Harbour.

He also pointed to the economic importance of good waterfront design and marinas, saying that over 60% of the jobs in the Southern District, which covers the southern half of Hong Kong Island, from Pokfulam to Shek O, are in the Aberdeen Harbour.

Zimmerman, one of the co-founders of Designing Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation advocating for better urban design in Hong Kong, also said that better protection for pleasure vessels was needed in the wake of damage wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018.

The lack of proper facilities also presented significant hazards, as demonstrated by the damage of Typhoon Mangkhut from 2018. Zimmerman said that climate change would result in more such super typhoons hitting Hong Kong. The super typhoon damaged or destroyed 61 Class IV (pleasure vessels), with more than half of the damage in Sai Kung, where most vessels are moored.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut was one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong Observatory hoisting the T10 signal, which means sustained winds of over 118km/h and gusts over 220km/h, for over 10 hours.

Citing government figures, Zimmerman noted that during Typhoon Mangkhut, Hei Ling Chau had occupancy of 40% during the worst of the storm. Yim Tin Tsai Typhoon Shelter, located at the northern end of Kai Sai Chau Island, had the lowest occupancy of just 10% during Typhoon Mangkhut.

Damage in the wake of Typhoon Mangkhut – Image courtesy HKBIA

Image courtesy HKBIA

Complicating the situation, the Marine Department has also issued a new ruling on private moorings which requires current and future owners of private moorings to give up their mooring after six years. Owners will then have to reapply for the right to own the mooring.

Chow says this new system was put in place to stop people from hoarding or subletting existing moorings as highlighted in the Ombudsman report on March 2019.