Effort to resolve shipyard closure

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 1994, 12:00am

LEGISLATORS will meet the Government today in an effort to settle the ongoing dispute over the relocation of the Tsing Yi shipyards - a move which shipyard owners claim will bring the Hong Kong shipping and construction industries to a standstill.

The issue is destined for the courts after the shipyard owners lodged an appeal against a noise prohibition order from the Environmental Protection Department to cease all hammering in the course of their work.

The shipyard owners say the order is ridiculous because even the most basic maintenance and inspection duties carried out at the yard require some hammering.

A spokesman for the shipyard owners, Danny Lee Ying-kuen, said the department's order may force the closure of the shipyards.

Along with the total ban on hammering, the use of grinders on ships hulls has also been banned between the hours of 6.30 pm and 8.30 am.

A noise limit of 67 decibels has been imposed between 7 am and 11 pm, dropping to 57 decibels during the night.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) issued the order in response to residents' complaints about the noise.

The principal environmental protection officer for Urban West, Tse Chin-wan, said the department had received several complaints about the noise and had found the noise contravened the department's levels.

He said there were alternative methods of rust removal available to shipyard owners which were quieter and less disruptive.

While he would not comment directly on the decision by the shipyard owners to appeal the noise limitation order, he said the EPD would prefer to talk directly with the shipyard owners to resolve the dispute rather than take it to court.

The Government's solution to the noise problem is to force the transfer of the historic shipyards to a newly reclaimed site 200 metres further up the coast from their existing site.

Concerned legislators met last week with government representatives in a bid to find a reasonable solution to the problem, but according to legislator Jimmy McGregor, the Government is taking an inflexible line.

'I'm very concerned about the Government's attitude,' he said.

'I feel very strongly now that the shipyards should be given a reasonable deal - the Government should provide them with a reasonable site and a guarantee that they can stay there for more than the seven years they are now promised as well as proper compensation,' Mr McGregor said.

The shipyard owners estimate it will cost each of the 18 affected yards about $30 million to relocate and force the suspension of business for up to two years while new facilities are built.

The closure of the yards will mean the loss of up to 2,000 jobs and will severely affect Hong Kong shipping and construction industries which rely on the shipyards to provide maintenance and repair services for barges and tugs.