Provisional Legislative Council
Economic Services Panel

Control and Management of Hong Kong Port


The purpose of this paper is to inform Members of the management and control of the Hong Kong port.


2. In terms of vessel traffic, Hong Kong is probably the busiest port in the world. In 1996, over 41 700 ocean-going vessels, 112 100 river cargo vessels and 65 200 river passenger vessels called at our port. On top of it, there are about 15,000 local craft operating in Hong Kong. All this translates into about 22,000 vessel movements in Hong Kong waters each day. Despite this significant volume of vessel traffic, a consultant appointed by the Marine Department (MD) to examine the risk level of Hong Kong waters (the MARAD Study) has confirmed that the safety level of the Hong Kong harbour, in terms of accident rate, is comparable to other major ports in the world, including the less busy ones.

Port Control and Management

3. The MD is responsible for managing our port, and ensuring the safety of navigation and efficiency of shipping activities in Hong Kong waters. This is done through a comprehensive vessel traffic management scheme including the provision of vessel traffic management services, harbour patrol, and enforcement of local and international maritime regulations.

4. In addition to the rapid growth of marine traffic, we have observed that the vessels operating in Hong Kong waters are getting larger and their speed faster. In particular, the number of high speed ferries has increased from 100 in 1990 to 120 in 1996 following the rapid expansion of the Pearl River Delta passenger services. Today, we have probably the largest fleet of high speed ferries in the world.

5. To improve the management of the increasingly busy Hong Kong waters, the MD in 1989 introduced the Hong Kong Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS). The system provides Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) to all ocean-going vessels of over 300 Gross Registered Tons (GRT). The radars of the VTMS track and monitor these ships once they enter Hong Kong waters, and the master or the pilot of the ship is warned or advised by a VHF radio system of the danger of any close encounter observed in the VTMS radar. The VTMS system has helped to minimise the number of vessel collisions and groundings, as well as protect the environment from oil spills caused by marine accidents.

6. The VTMS system, however, can only cover the large ocean-going vessels which are equipped with radio communication. There are a large number of small local and river trade craft plying in Hong Kong waters which are too numerous and too small to be tracked by the VTMS radar. Most of these vessels are not equipped with VHF radio communication system and cannot be contacted at sea. To improve the navigation safety of the central harbour and the major fairways and marine channels, the VTMS is supported by Local Marine Traffic Control Station (LMTCS) and patrol launches. The Control Stations are established in strategic locations to monitor local traffic. When dangerous manoeuvres or the likelihood of a close encounter is observed, the controller in the LMTCS will radio the patrol launch in the vicinity to advise or warn the small craft operators or take appropriate enforcement action.

7. The first LMTCS was established at Ma Wan Channel in 1995. Funds have been approved for providing a second LMTCS at Kwai Chung in 1999 and a further station is planned at Green Island in 2000. The longer term strategy will focus on providing more LMTCs and enhancing the VTMS through advanced technology. To this end, Hong Kong is an active participant in setting world VTMS standards through its membership of the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities and the International Maritime Organisation. At Annex is a map showing the VTMS and planned LMTCS.

Proactive Action

8. Also, since 1992, the MD has taken a number of proactive measures to improve marine safety:

  1. All ocean-going vessels participating in the VTS are scheduled to arrive at pilot boarding stations at designated time slot to space out traffic separation and minimise the risk of close encounters.

  2. Ocean-going vessels are diverted away from the central harbour area to reduce traffic conflict between ocean-going vessels and local craft. In practice, no through traffic is allowed for ocean-going vessels in the central harbour.

  3. Legislative amendment has been completed to require vessels over 3 000 GRT, all tankers of 1 000 GRT and all liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers to employ a pilot when entering Hong Kong waters.

  4. Additional buoys and markers have been provided to better organise the flow of marine traffic in fairways.

  5. New anchorage in the western harbour, North Lamma and South of Kau Yi Chau have been established and allocated to different classes of vessels to minimise undesirable interactions between vessels. A new Immigration Anchorage has been set up in Tuen Mun to reduce the number of river trade vessels sailing to the central harbour for immigration clearance.

  6. Since 1 April 1997, the MD patrol launches have been reorganised to provide better coverage of the patrol area. The operating hours of six of the patrol launches have also been extended to provide 24 hours operations for three launches and additional cover for the morning and evening peak traffic period by the remainder.

Safety and Educational Campaigns

9. Marine safety measures are ineffective without the awareness and co-operation of vessel operators. Safety campaigns are organised jointly by MD and Marine Police to increase the safety awareness and knowledge of local waters by vessel operators. Educational pamphlets are distributed and the industry is kept updated of latest traffic management and harbour conditions through Marine Department Notices issued by MD.

10. In view of the increasing number of Mainland masters and operators navigating in Hong Kong waters, MD has organised a series of marine safety seminars in southern China together with Mainland maritime authorities for Mainland masters and vessel operators. These seminars were well attended. The MD will continue to organise similar seminars in future.

Planning for the Future

11. Marine traffic in Hong Kong is forecast to grow at 7.5% a year in the next 4 years. To plan ahead and to maintain and enhance the safety of Hong Kong waters, the MD in 1995 appointed a consultant to undertake a Comprehensive Study on Marine Activities, Associated Risk Assessment and Development of a Future Strategy for the Optimum Usage of Hong Kong Waters Study (MARAD Study).

12. The MARAD study, completed earlier this year, identified current and future areas of conflict and navigational risks having regard to planned developments and mapped out strategic options for the optimum usage of Hong Kong waters. It also recommended a proactive approach in the operation and management of the Port of Hong Kong by working towards :

  • optimisation of cargo throughput at existing facilities to provide more flexibility in cargo allocation, improved efficiency, and reduced travel distances;

  • decentralisation of marine traffic away from core area, specifically in western waters where the potential exists for the consolidation of river trade operations, as a means of reducing traffic within the inner harbour area; and

  • improved control through greater provision of control stations and patrol launches, enhanced training for VTC and patrol staff and in general stepped up education, enforcement and prosecution through increased presence.

13. MD is currently formulating a long-term strategy based on the MARAD study recommendations to enhance the safety and optimise the use of Hong Kong waters to cope with the projected growth in marine traffic.

Economic Services Bureau
Date : 3 September 1997