Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 12:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 12:19am

Too much focus on fishing boats as pleasure craft are neglected

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

There is a letter from the Marine Department in today's Letters to the Editor in response to a piece we wrote recently. We had noted that despite the ban on fishing which came into effect at the end of 2012, there are now more registered fishing boats in Hong Kong than there were before the ban. It will be recalled that in 2010, there were 5,571 licensed fishing boats, according to the Marine Department. However, the latest figures from the department show there are now 6,536 fishing vessels.

Before the ban on fishing the government had made payments to the owners of the old green wooden-hulled fishing boats. The Marine Department letter doesn't deal with this conundrum. We referred to the appearance of new blue-hulled steel fishing boats in the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter. The department's letter simply says these are locally licensed fishing vessels, though as our picture shows, they don't appear to have a licence number.

While it's hard to establish an industry-wide business model, we gather that the local fishing syndicates appear to have chartered these boats, which are made in the mainland. Some of them are licensed here and in the mainland, but they prefer to be based in Hong Kong, which is an easier place to operate from. But while the Marine Department accommodates the presence of ever more fishing boats it is dragging its feet over dealing with the crushing issue of providing moorings for pleasure craft which at 7,485 is the biggest category of vessels in Hong Kong. It says it is only concerned with providing sheltered spaces for vessels during a typhoon.

It goes on to say somewhat disingenuously that: "Under normal circumstances, except in areas where anchoring is prohibited, coxswains and owners of local vessels may anchor their vessels at any safe and suitable areas in Hong Kong waters." However, if anyone tries to anchor, for example, in the 33.8 hectares of open water in the Kwun Tong typhoon shelter, they are chased out by the Marine Police. The typhoon shelter has been emptying since 1998 and has been completely empty for the past 18 months.

Nevertheless, vessels have been denied access except during typhoons when it achieves occupancy of no more than 45 per cent. Meanwhile, the department has belatedly announced it is going to commission a review on berthing and sheltered spaces for local vessels, which it says will be ready in the second quarter of next year. However, the boating industry that supports the repair and supply of vessels continues to languish.

 

CFOs lose sleep over volatility

What keeps CFO's in Asia awake at night these days? Financial markets volatility, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2014 CFO Outlook Asia report.

The report, which surveyed 639 chief financial officers and other financial executives in the region, showed that 36 per cent of CFOs, compared to 22 per cent last year, were concerned about financial market risk from the currency shifts that began in 2013 with Abenomics and the gradual reduction of quantitative easing by the United States Federal Reserve.

"The impact of these events still reverberates throughout Asia and adds volatility to currency, equity and fixed-income markets," the report said.

The highest percentage of CFOs showing this concern is in South Korea, where 47 per cent name financial market risk as the greatest threat facing their companies, followed by Japan (43 per cent ) and Taiwan (40 per cent). Meanwhile CFOs are increasingly optimistic that revenues will rise in 2014 compared to last year but are less optimistic on profits.

"Margin pressure is a real issue this year given the rising costs of doing business," said Steven Victorin, head of Asia-Pacific corporate banking and global corporate banking subsidiaries at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "Costs associated with labour, materials and financing have been rising as the Fed normalises its monetary policy through tapering of its quantitative easing programme."

The report also indicates that more companies would be looking to grow organically rather than via M&A. Those that do look to expand via M&A are more likely to do so in Southeast Asia in countries such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Interest in China has waned with only 15 per cent of CFOs indicating interest compared to 24 per cent in 2013 owing to concerns over shadow banking and trust defaults.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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