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Hong Kong housing

Discovery Bay boat owners, facing possible bankruptcy, appeal for more time to relocate

The management of Discovery Bay Marina Club on Lantau has given boat owners until December 31 to find another mooring place ahead of extensive renovation work

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 8:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 3:14pm

Boat owners facing eviction from Hong Kong’s Discovery Bay marina in less than four months have called on the management to give them more time to relocate, as some live-on-board owners say they may face bankruptcy if they cannot find a mooring place elsewhere.

The Discovery Bay Marina Club on Lantau, the city’s largest outlying island, only informed members on August 31 that their memberships and berthing permits would be terminated by December 31, as the marina will be closed for extensive renovation.

But the marina did not say what would happen after renovation, or whether any arrangements would be made for those removed.

Residents estimate some 200 boat owners, most of whom also live on board, would be affected.

With a severe shortage of mooring places across the city, they said four months was too short a time for relocation. If they cannot secure a pier or a mooring place elsewhere, their vessels lose most value, as few would want to buy them.

Henry Moreno, chairman of a group of 208 affected club members, said they hoped the club could extend the deadline to ship out to the middle of next year.

Houseboat families at Hong Kong’s Discovery Bay Marina Club demand transparency after eviction notice

He said the club’s director told them that Hong Kong Resort Company, the developer of Discovery Bay and a principal subsidiary of HKR International, would reply to the owners on Friday.

“We are talking about almost 200 boats, so there is a shortage [of mooring places] for sure,” Moreno said. “Where can we moor the boats?”

Marine Department statistics showed there were 9,748 licensed pleasure vessels in the city in 2016, but only around 5,000 public and private moorings and dry berths.

Moreno said his family of five stayed on their 900 sq ft boat for three quarters of the year, while spending the rest of the time outside Hong Kong.

The family bought the boat in 2016 for HK$4.4 million, repaying HK$25,000 every month. So far, he said, the family still had HK$3 million left unpaid.

He said if they could not find another place with water and a power supply to moor the boat, they would have to rent a flat while paying the boat mortgage, which he could not afford.

“Now I’m still in the phase of finding a middle ground with the club,” Moreno said. “If that fails, [bankruptcy] might happen.”

Discovery Bay Marina Club boat owners asked to ship out in three months as Lantau Island site in Hong Kong closes for renovations

Another owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said he still had seven years of mortgage to pay for his HK$5 million, 1,600 sq ft boat.

“I’m not going to pay for another seven years for something I don’t have,” the 50-year-old said, referring to his boat without a mooring place. “I think most people here will do the same.”

Nik von der Lühe, commodore of Discovery Bay Yacht Club – a group of sailing enthusiasts – and an affected marina resident, said he also had a mortgage.

In addition, he said, the yacht club might face closing down because most members berth their boats in the marina, or rely on the marina for shelter during typhoons.

He added that a wider community, including international schools that children who live on the boats attended, boat cleaning workers, and vessel financing companies would all be affected by the closure.

Sailing enthusiast Billy Cheng, a 66-year-old retiree, said his small boat moored close to the marina always sought shelter in the marina from typhoons.

“Now I don’t know what to do,” Cheng said.

According to residents, the club froze the transfer of memberships and berthing permits in July last year, which means boat owners had been unable to sell their boats since then.

“The general feeling that we have right now is that the plan was to draw everything out until the last moment to maximise their revenue,” von der Lühe said. “And then they suddenly go ‘poof’. There you go.”

Hong Kong Resort has not replied to a request for comment.