Boss facing eviction says shipyards being killed off

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 April, 2012, 12:00am


The boss of a shipyard says the government is killing the marine industry, after it was ordered to leave its premises with just two days' notice.

Thomson Lee, managing director of Harbour Jet Shipping in Ap Lei Chau, says Lands Department and police officers came to the premises he has sub-leased for 10 years and said he must clear the site by today.

The shipyard, which stands on government land on Praya Road in Ap Lei Chau, said the principal tenant he had rented the land from had surrendered the lease to the government, forcing his business out as well.

'I have nowhere to move. The officers said I had to leave otherwise they would use force,' Lee said. 'The government is killing our industry.' Lee and Southern District councillor Paul Zimmerman say there used to be 30 shipyards there. About 10 remain, fixing yachts and fishing boats.

Lee and Zimmerman say the developer of Larvotto, a private luxury housing project nearby, compensated the owners of some shipyards in return for them surrendering their government leases, in an effort to improve the appearance of the area.

Lee suspects the tenant he leased his site from was also given cash, but Cheerjoy Development, the joint-venture firm set up to manage the development, said it was 'totally unaware' of the case. 'We learnt that many [other tenants] planned to rearrange or stop their businesses but needed some help. The developers were willing to provide aid,' a spokeswoman for Cheerjoy said.

A subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties, which co-developed Larvotto with Kerry Properties and Paliburg Holdings, applied to rezone the shipyard sites into open space. Its application was rejected by the Town Planning Board, which said it recognised a need to retain the workshops.

Windows at Larvotto facing the shipyard had to be sealed because of the noise. Residents have also lodged complaints against the businesses.

Zimmerman said the government should ensure the city has enough shipyards, with Ap Lei Chau and Shau Kei Wan the only two service areas left on Hong Kong Island. 'It is very easy for residents to push out the industrial use, but the end result for Hong Kong is there is no back-up and it will be increasingly expensive to find repair services.'

The department said the action was taken after the principal tenant served notice in January to end the lease, as of tomorrow. Lee was illegally occupying the government land.

Kerry Properties is controlled by the Kuok Group, the controlling shareholder of the SCMP Group, which publishes the South China Morning Post.