HONG KONG and South Korea have offered to host the second meeting of the Asian Shipping Forum. The first annual meeting, held in Japan, was attended by shipping-related government agencies of eight Asian countries. Delegates from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand attended earlier this month. The meeting was held to exchange views on shipping problems of common interest in the Asian region at a time when Asia is assuming increasing importance in international shipping. The forum started with a keynote report by Japan on the current state of shipping in Asia, followed by reports from the respective countries on their shipping industries and policies. According to Japanese Ministry of Transport (MOT) sources, all the participants shared the perception that shipping had a big role to play in the development of Asia's economy and trade. Although shipping policy varies from country to country, the participants showed a deep understanding of the need to liberalise shipping. They also showed keen interest in improving shipping-related infrastructure and tackling the problems of safety and environmental protection, a source said. The agenda for future meetings will be determined by inviting the participating countries to submit subjects for discussion six months before each session. The working groups could formulate common policies and negotiate with the Consultative Shipping Group.