Government’s plan to use typhoon shelters as mooring sites revealed

Berthes full at Hebe Haven Yacht Club. Photo by Graham Uden

Government reveals plans to use typhoon shelters as mooring sites amid chronic space shortage. Jai Rane reports.

The Marine Department is considering setting up temporary private mooring in typhoon shelters to ease the territory-wide shortage in berthing spaces. One potential site for mooring is the Yim Tin Tsai typhoon shelter.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan revealed the plans in response to a question by transport sector lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming. Chan says that the Marine Department is “also considering” creating 1,200 additional private moorings by expanding three existing mooring sites in Tso Wo Hang, Shuen Wan Hoi and Tai Mei Tuk.

The chronic shortage of mooring space has been a public issue for several years. In 2014, the Marine Department responded to public pressure by promising a review by mid-2015. However, it is only now that the issue has been readdressed. 

The current scarcity of mooring space has significantly increased the cost of boat ownership and forced many skippers to moor illegally. Marine department statistics show that there were 9,748 licensed pleasure vessels last year but only 5,000 moorings and dry berths for their use. Boat owners who can afford the soaring rent prices often have to spend years on waiting lists for marina spaces.

A leading HK yacht broker who wished to remain anonymous says that “the whole of Hong Kong is full” and it is “killing the boating business”. He says nobody wants a boat when there’s no mooring space “it’s like buying a Ferrari when there are no parking areas”.

Sham Wan viewed from Nam Long Shan

He thinks Chan’s suggestion is a “good idea” but it can only provide temporary relief. “Bigger boats need power for running batteries and such measures would only work for little boats.”

“Mooring and berths spaces have run out in Hong Kong since two years ago and most potential yacht owners have given up considering such an idea,” says Gordon Hui, chairman of luxury-boat maker Sunseeker Asia.

“Over 30,000 people are working in this marine industry but the growth in this industry is looking bleak”. Hui suggests that instead of more private mooring spaces the yachting industry would like more public marinas for HK yacht owners and overseas visiting yachts.

He believes that this use of land will benefit boat owners and non-boat owners alike as people can still hang out in these public marinas to enjoy dinners, drinks and a view of the luxury yachts only metres away.

It will be “a LKF by the sea”. “We hope the HK Government can consider these points rather than selling all the land to property developers to build expensive housing that many people can not afford.” Hui shared examples of successful overseas public marinas in Corsica, Sardinia, and St Tropez and of possible locations for such marinas in Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong lost its title as the world’s busiest container port in 2005. The city is currently fifth behind Shanghai, Singapore, Shenzhen, and Ningbo in the QS annual world rankings.