Plans for removal of shipyards in limbo
PLANS to relocate 21 shipyards on Tsing Yi Island are in limbo following the failure of government departments to agree on key issues.
The departments cannot agree on the timing for the move or how to provide alternative ship maintenance facilities.
Confidential government documents obtained by the South China Morning Post show the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) insists the shipyards must be closed by April next year.
But both the Marine Department and New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office (NAPCO) have expressed concern at the potential impact on shipping and development that will result from the loss of the maintenance services.
The shipyards were established on North Tsing Yi in the early 1960s but since the development of residential blocks alongside them in the late 1980s, residents have constantly complained of disruptive noise levels caused by ship maintenance work.
The Government has allocated another, newly reclaimed site 200 metres further away from the apartment blocks, and has informed the shipyards they will have to move.
The shipyard owners estimate it will cost more than $1 billion to move up the street, and will put them out of business for at least two years, with a loss of about 2,000 jobs.
They are also concerned the land the Government has allocated is built on a mud base which will sink under the weight of the 3,000-tonne barges that the shipyards maintain.
The District Land Officer for Kwai Tsing recently called for opinions from the Director of Marine, the Director of NAPCO, the Director of Environmental Protection and the Director of Regional Services on the problems associated with relocating the shipyards.
The responses show the EPD is firmly opposed to any delay in relocation, while the other departments are inclined to delay any immediate action.
A spokesman for the director of NAPCO said the shipyards provided maintenance to barges and tugs which were essential to the construction process.
'The maintenance needs of the support vessels for the airport project works, such as transporting bottles of water or other daily necessities to work sites on the islands should not be overlooked when assessing the impact of the clearance of these shipyards,' he said.
According to a memo from Marine Director Allen Pyrke, there are 1,632 barges and 742 launches and ferries licensed last year which vary in tonnage from four to 1,500 tonnes.
'The majority of these vessels rely very much on the maintenance services provided by the shipyards on North Tsing Yi and these services become crucial when the vessels are due for renewal of licences,' the memo said. 'Delay in the reprovisioning of shipyards will have serious impact on new airport projects and cargo operations.' A Regional Council memo said the council did not plan to begin work on the new site evacuated by the shipyards until 1998 and it was not opposed to delaying the relocation.
However, EPD Director Dr Stuart Reed is totally opposed to any delay because he claims there is no other way to solve the problem of noise affecting the nearby residents.