Hong Kong berthing shortage puts cloud over Gold Coast Boat Show at Tuen Mun
Crowds pour in, but yachtmakers shift their focus to mainland market
Not even Mother Nature could stop Asia's elite getting their fill of the latest in luxury yesterday as prospective buyers and sellers of multimillion-dollar yachts gathered at the public opening of the 2014 Gold Coast Boat Show.
The rain took some of the shine off the event at the Gold Coast Yacht and Country Club near Tuen Mun, but the key cause of any sense of pervading gloom was not the weather, but the city's lack of berthing spaces.
"The situation in Hong Kong these days is not good and the problem is not about the boats. The problem is about the berthing," said William So, managing director of NextWave Yachting.
"Everyone is struggling. It's not a new problem. It's been happening for a long time and plans for new marinas in Kowloon Bay and on Lamma have been rejected," he added.
Hong Kong is estimated to have only about 5,000 mooring spaces for the 15,000 fishing and leisure boats in the city.
Industry representatives said the shortage forces captains to berth illegally, while competition for the available legal spaces has caused rents to double.
So said the problem lies in the perception that yachting is open only to the super-wealthy and that only the rich could benefit from the construction of new marinas. He said his company was developing smaller boats, so the middle class could also enjoy the boating culture.
So's comments were echoed by several other industry leaders, who are shifting their focus to the mainland market amid declining sales in Hong Kong.
"My confidence in the Chinese market is as strong as the Great Wall of China," said Traugott Kaminski, chief executive of high-end yacht maker Sanlorenzo. "I believe the yacht market [in China] is like the car market three years ago - no one knows how huge it's going to be," said Kaminski.
He has vowed to either become the No 1 player in China's yacht market in three years or exit the industry.
Kaminski brushed off suggestions the ongoing crackdown on corruption on the mainland would undermine business.
Several other company executives agreed, saying they mostly sell to businesses - and not government officials - so they should be unaffected.
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