Competition hampers HK repair yards
RAPID growth of ship repair industries in China, the Philippines and Singapore has put a cap on the expansion plans of Hong Kong's repair yards.
As a result, the Government is reconsidering plans to develop new dockyard facilities at Tsueng Kwan O costing an estimated $1.37 billion.
Under the plan, an engineering feasibility study was to be completed by February next year and construction of the dockyard was to start in January 1998, for completion in December 2000.
The request for shelving the plan came from Hong Kong United Dockyards (HUD) and Yiu Lian Dockyards, the territory's two largest repair yards.
According to HUD and Yiu Lian officials, further planning for the Tsueng Kwan O project would be premature.
They think Hong Kong's existing facilities can meet ship repair demand for a long time to come.
HUD managing director Glyn Gough said the cost of developing a dockyard at a site such as Tsueng Kwan O would be high.
''The Government might wish to call for expressions of interest in the Tsueng Kwan O site, but that would be a waste of Hong Kong's scarce resources,'' he said.
According to Yang Shi-lan, deputy general manager of Yiu Lian, a number of shipyards and dockyards are being developed in the Chinese ports of Yantian, Shekou and Pudong.
Also, he said, most of the existing mainland yards were expanding their facilities to cater for increased demand.
According to a recent issue of the China Ship Repair Magazine, mainland yards aimed to build 10 dry docks by the year 2000.
These docks would be able to accommodate vessels of up to 100,000 tonnes.
Mr Gough said the growth of the repair industry in the Philippines and Singapore should also be taken into account when drawing up future plans.
''This regional growth, together with the general worldwide depression in the shipping industry, would affect the ship repair business of Hong Kong,'' he said.
''The current need of the industry is Government co-operation in improving the operational efficiency of existing sites, including expansion where possible, and finding solutions to the problem of [the] labour shortage,'' Mr Gough said.
Mr Yang said high labour costs and the shortage of skilled labour were the biggest problems facing Hong Kong's ship repair industry.
''These problems, inevitably, have reduced the competitiveness of Hong Kong,'' Mr Yang said.
Yiu Lian has five floating docks, with lifting capacities of 1,800, 8,500, 12,000, 12,500 and 36,000 tonnes.
HUD's new 40,000-tonne dock, being built by Singapore's Far East Levingston Shipbuilding, will be delivered early next year.
The 290-metre dock will be among the largest in the world and will accommodate the latest generation of container ships.