Although very few Hong Kong mariners are to be found on ships traversing the world's ocean's these days, the city can still lay claim to being one of the busiest ports in the world, providing a vital link in the global logistics chain.
According to government data, Hong Kong shipowners own, manage or operate about 8 per cent of the world's merchant fleet. At the same time, about 700 shipping-related companies are based here, providing maritime services that include ship agency and management, ship owning and operations, broking and marine insurance, and inland water transport. Related services such as legal, arbitration, finance, registration and surveying also offer a wide range of career opportunities.
"Compared with other industries, the maritime sector is not a high-visibility activity," said Alan Tung, executive director at Orient Overseas, one of the world's largest shipping and logistics companies with a fleet of more than 270 ships.
Speaking at the recent Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference held in Hong Kong, Tung said shore-side technical and non-technical maritime jobs offer some of the most vibrant career opportunities. "As an industry, perhaps we should do more to highlight the job opportunities available," said Tung.
Speaking at the same conference, China's vice-minister of transport, Xu Zuyuan, said Hong Kong will remain a vital international port, and Beijing is committed to supporting its development as a maritime centre under the five-year plan to 2015.
He said Hong Kong and the mainland should increase collaboration in shipping and maritime activities. "While consolidating Hong Kong's role as an international shipping centre, logistics and shipping services must be aggressively developed in the major ports of the Pearl River Delta," he said.
To provide a platform for shipping, transport and logistics education, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University offers a master of science programme in international shipping and transport logistics.
Topics covered include marine insurance, chartering strategy, liner management, admiralty law, airport and terminal management, and Chinese maritime and port law.
Rosita Lau, partner and maritime law specialist with Ince and Co, would like to see more fresh Hong Kong law degree graduates join the maritime law sector. "Maritime law can be tough and is often viewed as being more challenging than other law specialities, but it is also interesting and exciting," said Lau.
During her Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference presentation, Lau said Hong Kong maritime lawyers can expect to work on global issues including maritime piracy, pollution at sea and trade sanctions involving shipping, such as those recently imposed on Iran.
She added that junior lawyers who make themselves familiar with Chinese maritime laws and arbitration requirements will find themselves in demand. "The opportunities are widespread," she said. "We just need to attract people that are ambitious enough to pursue them."