Covid-19 is a challenge, but there are also exciting developments taking place in the region, said HKSOA chairman Bjorn Hojgaard, ahead of the Asia Maritime & Offshore Webinar Week
As a trade organisation, the core function of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) is to add value to members’ operations as demand in the region changes. HKSOA chairman Bjorn Hojgaard (also chief executive of Anglo-Eastern Univan Group) said the focus two years ago was the trade war between China and the US and the impact on members’ activities in Hong Kong.
On top of this, there was the renewed social unrest in Hong Kong. It was against this background that Bjorn Hojgaard took over as HKSOA chairman in November 2019.
“Then in January 2020, Covid-19 arrived, and the Hong Kong Shipowners Association’s priorities changed again. All planned trips were cancelled and discussions were halted by the emergence of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Our local members had a lot of practical questions they needed help with. On a political level, I became very involved in discussions with local government about the logistical challenges that faced shipping in Hong Kong,” he said.
Hong Kong was relatively unscathed in the first wave of Covid-19 from January 2020, but a more severe wave occurred in March and April 2020. Quarantine meant crew changes could not take place in Hong Kong, and the HKSOA became the de facto point of contact for local shipowners to share and update crew-change techniques and information.
“For a while, we could only do crew change in Hong Kong during cargo work,” said Mr Hojgaard, “which more or less limited it to container ships.” The crew-change situation is very fluid and local, with national and international rules changing all the time, and the HKSOA is working full time to update members.
Looking further ahead, an exciting challenge is a new initiative from Beijing: The Greater Bay Area plan.
The Greater Bay Area plan will link Hong Kong, Macau and nine other cities in southern China covering 70M people and encompass an area that produces 37% of the country’s exports and 12% of GDP.
“The idea behind this is to create a region like that around San Francisco Bay area, where there are hubs of tech companies, software companies, manufacturing, and, of course, shipping companies. The Hong Kong Shipowners Association’s role is to advise on the shipping logistics and how this can be integrated into the plan,” said Mr Hojgaard. “The aim is to create the Silicon Valley of Asia, with shipping at the centre,” said Mr Hojgaard.