Despite a shortage of berths and moorings for leisure craft in Hong Kong, recent government figures (as reported in Hong Kong consumer boating magazine Fragrant Harbour) show a considerable growth in boat numbers.

In questions raised in the Hong Kong Legislative Council in July, the Secretary for Transport & Housing, Frank Chan, was asked about the demand and supply of berthing for yachts, the total number of yachts, government plans for additional berthing and the provision of berthing in the territory’s 14 typhoon shelters.

Chan responded by revealing that, as at the end of 2016, there were a total of 9,748 licensed Class IV (pleasure) vessels compared to 7,920 in 2012, an increase of 23% in four years. With the overall total of licensed vessels – ferries, workboats, tugs, fishing boats, sampans and pleasure vessels totalling 18,540, marine recreational craft now represent 52%, or more than half, of the total fleet.

A breakdown of the leisure boat numbers by size, shows an interesting growth pattern with better growth in small boats under 35ft and large yachts over 60ft than in the mid-range. Yachts over 100ft show the highest increase in numbers with a rise of 41%. Up to 35ft in length, 5,677 vessels in 2012 increased to 7,231 in 2016 – a 27% increase. From 36ft-60ft in length, 1,619 vessels in 2012 increased to 1,758 in 2016 – an 8% increase. From 61ft-100ft in length, 595 vessels in 2012 increased to 704 in 2016 – an 18 % increase. From 101ft and above in length, 39 vessels in 2012 increased to 55 in 2016 – a 41% increase.

In order to cater for the growing number of leisure vessels, the Hong Kong Marine Department is under increasing pressure to allocate more space for moorings and berths with ongoing discussions where they should be placed. Sites identified by the department include expanding existing moorings in Tso Wo Hang, Tai Mei Tuk and Shuen Wan Hoi together with expansion into existing typhoon shelters such as Hei Ling Chau and Yim Tin Tsai. These would provide around 1,200 extra berths.

In an interview, Fragrant Harbour publisher David Robinson told IBI: “One glaringly apparent option for accommodating marine recreational craft is Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter, alongside the old Kai Tak runway in the middle of the harbour. During inclement weather, it is rarely more than half full. Likewise To Kwa Wan, the typhoon shelter on the other side of the runway. Why, then, can’t all craft seeking shelter go to To Kwa Wan which would leave Kwun Tong open for permanent mooring/berthing facilities for needy pleasure vessels?

“Government does allow anchoring in typhoon shelters, so a number of marine operators and individual owners have already dropped anchor in the empty shelter. Some of the more enterprising concerns have brought in barges which may have two or three large pleasure craft rafted up either side. This is a great example of the Hong Kong ‘can do’ spirit and has allowed numbers of marine recreational craft to increase. But it is a temporary, not long-term solution to the mooring/berthing shortage.”