LCQ13: Maritime industry

     Following is a question by the Hon Luk Chung-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (April 25):


     Recently, some trade union representatives have relayed to me that although the Government has implemented a number of measures in recent years to encourage young people to pursue a career in the maritime industry, the local vessel sector and river trade sector are still facing manpower shortage and succession problems. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the respective numbers of persons employed in the two aforesaid sectors in each of the past five years (with a breakdown by age group), and the respective anticipated manpower demand of the two sectors in each of the coming five years;

(2) whether it knows the respective (i) average monthly vacancy rates and (ii) median monthly wages, of seamen in the two sectors in the past five years;

(3) whether it knows the respective numbers of seamen in the two sectors who will retire within the coming five years;

(4) whether it knows the respective numbers of persons who joined the two sectors as seamen in the past five years upon completion of the relevant training; and

(5) whether it will formulate new measures to attract members of the public to pursue a career in the two sectors so as to mitigate their manpower shortage and succession problems?


     The HKSAR Government has been committed to entrenching the position of Hong Kong as an international maritime centre. One of our major tasks is to collaborate with the maritime industry through the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board (HKMPB) to nurture more talents for the trade. The Government set up a $100 million Maritime and Aviation Training Fund (MATF) in April 2014 with an aim to assist and encourage young students and industry practitioners to receive maritime and aviation related training, thereby enhancing the overall competitiveness and professional competency of the industry.

     Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Luk Chung-hung is as follows:

(1) to (3) In order to assess the manpower situation and training needs of the maritime industry, the Maritime Services Training Board of the Vocational Training Council (VTC) conducted manpower survey (Manpower Survey Report) in 2012, 2014 and 2016 respectively, which covered four major categories, namely the ocean going sector, river trade sector, local vessel sector and shore-based personnel sector.

     For the river trade sector, according to the 2016 Manpower Survey Report, information provided by the employer respondents reflected that there were over 1 330 seafarer positions offered by the organisations concerned, including around 1 260 seafarers employed and around 70 vacancies, as at August 2016. The employer respondents of the river trade sector projected at the time of the survey that the manpower demand in 2017 and 2018 would be more or less the same as that in 2016.

     As regards the local vessel sector, information provided by the employer respondents during the above survey period reflected that there were around 5 000 seafarer positions in 2016 in the organisations concerned, including around 4 800 seafarers employed and around 200 vacancies. The employers of local vessel sector projected that the number of positions required in 2017 and 2018 would be slightly reduced to around 4 900 each year.

     According to the 2014 and 2016 Manpower Survey Reports, the age distribution of employers of the two sectors is set out at Annex I. Given that there is no statutory retirement age for seafarers, we cannot provide the number of retirees in the coming five years.

     The Government does not have the projected manpower requirement and the average monthly vacancy rate of the coming five years for the two sectors. According to the Annual Survey of Wages of Hong Kong Registered Seafarers conducted by the Mercantile Marine Office of Hong Kong and the Manpower Survey Reports conducted by VTC, the mean average wages of the two sectors are set out in Annex II.

(4) The number of new Certificates of Competency (CoCs) for seafarers issued by the Marine Department (MD) per year may reflect the number of new seafarers joining the industry. The number of CoCs newly issued by the MD for river trade and local vessel sectors in the past five years is set out at Annex III.

(5) The Government attaches importance to the overall manpower supply of the maritime industry and is aware of the problem encountered by the river trade and local vessel sectors. Owing to the intense competition of labour market and the relatively less favourable working environment of the industry as compared with the various jobs onshore, it is relatively difficult for the industry to attract young people to join.

     In view of the above, the Local Vessel Trade Training Incentive Scheme (LVTTIS) under MATF provides financial incentive to those who is newly employed by the local vessel sector with an aim to encourage them to acquire the first professional qualification as coxswains or engine operators of local vessels. Since the implementation of LVTTIS in 2014, around 110 employees in the local vessel sector have benefited. Besides, we also implement the Maritime and Aviation Internship Scheme under MATF for arranging young people to work in different maritime companies. The experience gained by the participants will serve as their good reference to consider whether to join the local vessel sector in future.

     The Manpower Development Committee of HKMPB has also endorsed earlier various enhancement measures proposed by MD to increase the manpower supply for the local vessel sector, including –
  • enhancing LVTTIS to allow recipients to change companies during the subsidy period, as long as they are still performing seaman duties in local companies;
  • granting an equivalent commercial local trade CoC to retired civil servants who are qualified to operate government vessels when in service, so that they would be qualified to become local seafarers;
  • allowing holders of Grade 2 CoC to operate certain types of large local vessels for routes specified by MD upon completion of relevant on-job training and passage of capability assessment; and
  • allowing candidates to sit for Coxswain or Engine Operator Grade 3 examination first before acquiring the necessary sea experience.
     To enhance the image of seafarers in the perception of the general public and raise attractiveness of seafaring jobs to young people, MD has invited the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications to initiate an accreditation exercise for professional seafaring qualifications issued by MD and applied for appointment as an "Assessment Agency". Other than ocean going sector, MD is also applying for appointment as the Assessment Agency of the local seafarer qualifications and will soon commence the benchmarking work for eight CoCs of local seafarers, including 3 CoCs for Local Coxwains, 3 CoCs for Local Engine Operators and 2 CoCs for Pleasure Vessels Operators. Upon passing the accreditation exercise, anyone who has obtained these qualifications of seafarers from MD will be considered to have acquired the respective qualification framework level.

     In addition, the Transport and Housing Bureau has published and disseminated at the Education and Careers Expo (the Expo) this year a booklet of "Local Vessel Trade in Hong Kong" to introduce the career and training information of the trade to the Expo visitors , with a view to strengthening the promotion of the trade to young people. We also broadcasted career videos at the Expo to introduce the work of Coxswain and Engineer in local ferry operators in order to increase the understanding of young people on these jobs.

     We will continue to actively explore implementing further enhancement measures under MATF and introducing new schemes for the industry, so as to provide more financial incentives to young people and inject new blood to the industry.
Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:30