James Hughes-Hallet, chairman of the Swire group's China Navigation Co, has been appointed chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association at the company's 40th annual general meeting.
Mr Hughes-Hallet said he would continue the work of outgoing chairman George Chao Sze-kwong and sell the story of marine skills and services to attract more shipowners to Hong Kong.
Mr Chao said the association had written to the Government, after speaking to several legislators, to urge that the association should have more representation in the new Legislative Council.
The association, whose ordinary membership list contains many of the world's largest shipowning and management companies, will be given only as much voting power as one local ferry company.
Mr Chao said that in the past the association had no intention of taking part in politics. Now shipowners believed they had to have a voice in Legco.
'If we don't speak out, nobody will speak out for us,' he said. 'It is too late for us to get more representation for the present Legco, but we hope to be more successful in the next elections.' Regarding the formation of an Asian insurance market, Mr Chao said Asian shipowners controlled about 40 per cent of the world's fleet and they would now like to have the market controlled by Asians. An important announcement would be made on this issue in May, he said.
In his market review, Mr Chao said owners' returns in the tanker time-charter market were US$55,000 per day for modern very large crude carriers (VLCCs), while well-maintained vessels more than 20 years old could still fetch up to $45,000 a day.
Smaller crude carriers and product carriers had not seen the same strong rate increases as VLCCs.
In the dry-bulk market, Capesize spot-market rates continued to rise in the third quarter of this year while Panamax and Handysize spot rates stagnated.
'Our preliminary records show that during the first nine months of 1997, new bulk-carrier orders amounted to 184 vessels of 12.3 million deadweight tonnes [dwt],' Mr Chao said.
Deliveries reached as much as 244 vessels of 15.9 million dwt and demolition sales involved 104 vessels of 200,000 dwt.
The order book had increased by about 100,000 dwt to 24.3 million dwt, which corresponded to about 9.1 per cent of the existing bulk-carrier fleet.
New deliveries of dry-bulk and combined carriers in the later part of this year were expected to be much lower than the corresponding period last year, Mr Chao said.
Bulk-carrier deliveries were expected to fall from a record of 19.3 million dwt this year to 11.1 million dwt in 1998, and only about 7.3 million dwt in 1999.
Mr Chao advised prudence in ordering newbuildings so they were covered with cargo as opposed to speculating on the capital value of the vessels.