Shipping firm chief warns Asia lacks input on global issues Hong Kong and Shanghai should combine resources to form a powerful international maritime alliance and address the lack of influence Asia has on decisions governing the global port and shipping industries, according to a shipping expert. Asia, led by China, manufactures most of the world's maritime cargo, controls almost half the global shipping fleet and is home to its six biggest port operators. But local executives have little input on policies which shape the industry, such as the post-911 security regulations being forged in Europe and the United States. It is time for Asia to pull its weight, Liang Min-hang, chairman of the Tung-family owned Island Navigation, told delegates at Marintec China yesterday. 'When Asian shipbuilders create 80 per cent of the world's fleet, the six largest container terminals are all in Asia and the global fleet is 45 per cent controlled by Asian shipowners, how can we content ourselves with not having an influence relative to all our hard work?' Mr Liang asked. The International Maritime Organisation's new International Ship and Port Facility Security code regulations are a good example of how Asian operators are failing to shape initiatives designed to protect the maritime trade sector from being used in acts of terrorism. As the trade's dominant shipowners and port operators, Asian companies will be expected to foot the lion's share of the estimated US$60 billion it will cost to put the new security measures in place by July. Yet they have little influence on what shape those new regulations will take. Mr Liang said an international maritime centre which combined the strengths of Hong Kong's mature regulatory environment and the mainland's trade potential and dedication to the maritime sector could address that imbalance. China has a giant fleet of vessels but is restricted by its regulations, tax and financial systems, he said, adding that Hong Kong has the latter in spades but lacks a coherent strategy to promote the industry. 'Hong Kong lacks a common vision between industry and the government on the long-term development of the industry,' Mr Liang said. 'It has paid special attention to the development of container terminals and ignored cultivating personnel with ability.' To an extent, Asia's two maritime centres are already interwoven on an operational level. Hong Kong shipowners are providing a large part of the funding driving China's shipbuilding boom, with more than US$500 million worth of ships on order at mainland yards. Hong Kong has been promoting its shipping registry, which has about 20 million deadweight tonnes under its flag, and mainland carriers such as China Ocean Shipping have been considering signing some of their vessels on.