LCQ13: Marine insurance industry

     Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (November 29):
     Some members of the marine insurance industry have relayed that at present, the Government imposes restrictions of operating in Hong Kong on overseas companies which engage solely in marine insurance, and there are no marine insurance-related training programmes on offer in Hong Kong. As a result, it is difficult for those aspiring to join the marine insurance industry to acquire the relevant knowledge and to receive professional training. They are worried that such a situation will make it difficult for Hong Kong to maintain its leading position in the global maritime industry. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the existing number of marine insurance brokers in Hong Kong, and its percentage in the total number of local insurance practitioners;
(2) whether it knows the names of the marine insurance programmes currently offered by tertiary institutions and other organisations;
(3) given that the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, the Maritime Services Training Institute and the Institute of Professional Education and Knowledge are jointly offering a professional certificate programme in marine insurance and the authorities will provide subsidies to the students, whether the authorities know the progress of preparation and implementation timetable of the programme as well as the details of the subsidies; and
(4) of (i) the amount of subsidies provided under the Maritime and Aviation Training Fund for offering marine insurance training programmes and its percentage in the total amount of subsidies given out in the year, and (ii) the number of marine insurance practitioners who benefited from the Fund, in each year since its establishment in 2014?

     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is committed to entrenching Hong Kong's position as an international maritime centre.  One of our major tasks is to promote the development of high value-added maritime services, as well as nurture talents for the sector by collaborating with the maritime industry through the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board (HKMPB). 
     The marine insurance industry of Hong Kong has been growing steadily over the past decades. The total gross premium of insurance on ships in Hong Kong surged by almost 10 per cent yearly on average in the past decade, which is higher than the annual average growth of around 7 per cent for general insurance business. Besides, 12 out of the 13 members of the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs have presence in Hong Kong, making us the largest representation outside London. 
     To nurture talents to support the long-term development of the maritime industry, the Government established the Maritime and Aviation Training Fund (MATF) in April 2014 with a commitment of $100 million. The MATF seeks to assist and encourage young students and practitioners of the maritime and aviation sectors to receive maritime or aviation education and training, thereby enhancing the overall competitiveness and professional competency of the industries. In addition, in October 2016, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) established its Asian Hub in Hong Kong, which is its first overseas presence outside its headquarters in Hamburg. One of the major work focuses of the Asian Hub is to further develop the manpower training market of marine insurance professionals in the Asia-Pacific region.
     Our reply to the four-part question raised by the Hon Holden Chow is as follows:
(1) At present, there are 89 insurance companies authorised by the Insurance Authority (IA) to operate marine insurance business in Hong Kong. The IA does not have statistics on the number of practitioners engaging in marine insurance.
     For insurance brokers, at present, all insurance broker companies and their technical representatives are required to register with the Hong Kong Confederation of Insurance Brokers (the Confederation) or the Professional Insurance Brokers Association (the Association). The Confederation and the Association do not keep specific records of the detailed business areas in which registered insurance brokers are involved, and hence they are unable to provide the relevant figures or percentage.
(2) Currently, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Maritime Services Training Institute and Institute of Professional Education And Knowledge under the Vocational Training Council (VTC) offer maritime and logistics programmes of various qualifications, including master degree, bachelor degree and higher diploma programmes. Among them, a total of five elective modules are related to marine insurance, viz., "Practice in Marine Insurance", "Insurance in Shipping and Transport Logistics", "Law and Practice in Marine Insurance", "Maritime Law and Insurance" and "Marine and Aviation Insurance". In addition, individual local organisations, such as the Marine Insurance Club, also offer marine insurance programmes for industry practitioners. 
     Just on November 20 this year, the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers announced the launch of an "Executive Certificate in Marine Insurance" programme in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong School of Professional and Continuing Education. Being the first-ever training programme in Asia as recognised by the IUMI, it targets professional practitioners in marine insurance and consists of 45-hour face-to-face learning and practical case studies.  The programme is expected to be officially rolled out in May 2018.
     Details of local training programmes regarding the maritime and port industry are uploaded onto the website of the HKMPB, so as to furnish maritime industry practitioners with information on seminars and short-term training programmes on marine insurance organised by private organisations. 
(3) and (4) At present, a Professional Training and Examination Refund Scheme (ProTERS) is set up under the MATF for subsidising maritime and aviation practitioners to take courses and/or examinations as approved by the Fund.  Eligible applicants would be refunded with 80 per cent of the fees after completing the approved courses or passing the examinations, subject to a cap of $18,000.
     ProTERS also supports maritime practitioners to take marine insurance training. As at September 2017, a total of 48 marine insurance practitioners applied for reimbursement of training fees. Except one unsuccessful application owing to the lack of required proof documents, the other 47 applications were all approved. The above applications accounted for about 3 per cent of the total applications of ProTERS and involved an amount of almost $60,000, which accounted for about 2 per cent of the overall approved funding of the Scheme. 
     In addition, the VTC is organising a Professional Certificate in Marine Insurance programme. The VTC has already consulted and considered the professional advice of the marine insurance sector, and formulated the programme content and curriculum. Currently, it is preparing for conducting internal academic assessment of the proposed programme and compiling teaching materials. The programme is expected to be launched in mid-2018 for recruitment of students. Since this programme is still under preparation, the MATF has yet to receive any application from the course provider for inclusion of the said programme into the list of approved courses under ProTERS.
Ends/Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:15