For discussion on
2 March 1999

Legislative Council Panel on Economic Services

Review of Speed Limit for Vessels in Hong Kong Waters


The purpose of this paper is to brief Members on the Administration's proposal to revise the speed limits for vessels navigating within Hong Kong waters.


2. To ensure navigational safety and port efficiency, vessels navigating within Hong Kong waters are regulated by different speed limits, depending on their lengths and location. Details of the current speed restrictions are shown at Annex I. In brief, the key controls within the Victoria Harbour area are as follows :

  1. 8 knots for vessels of 60 metres in length or more;

  2. 10 knots for vessels between 15 metres and 60 metres in length; and

  3. 15 knots for those up to 15 metres in length, but 10 knots within the area between North Point and Little Green Island.

3. There is no speed limit for vessels navigating outside the harbour limits during day time. Specified vessels providing scheduled ferry services are not allowed to exceed 15 knots in such waters during the period half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise.

4. In addition, vessels navigating within typhoon shelters are subject to a speed limit of 3 knots and for those fishing ports (such as Sai Kung and Kat O), the limit is 10 knots. Subject to meeting specified safety and manning requirements, high speed craft are granted exemption from speed limit.

The Speed Limit Review

5. To simplify the existing speed limits and in response to the rapid development in the harbour over the years, Marine Department has conducted a review of the current speed limits. The review aims to maintain a suitable balance between navigational safety on the one hand and port efficiency on the other. Following extensive consultation with the shipping industry and other port users, the department plans to implement a revised speed limit system in the harbour. The objectives of the new scheme are to extend the area of speed control, streamline the current speed limits in the Central Harbour, simplify the classification of vessels, and tighten the control in popular boating areas. Details of the revised speed limits are shown at Annex II.

The Proposals

6. The main features of the revised speed limit system are:-

  1. Boundaries - the area covered by the new speed limits will be enlarged both eastward and westward to cover the present and future port areas. Maximum speed for vessels navigating within the new speed restriction area is 10 knots if over 60 meters in length , and 15 knots if less than 60 meters in length.

  2. Speeds within Fairways - to maintain navigational safety while allowing large modern ocean-going vessels sufficient flexibility to manoeuvre, a maximum speed restriction of 15 knots will be introduced in those fairways which have no speed restriction at present.

  3. Speed Restriction Sub Zone - in view of the heavy traffic in the central and western parts of the harbour, a speed restriction sub zone will be designated between Causeway Bay and Green Island. The maximum speeds for vessels under 60 meters and over 60 meters are 10 knots and 8 knots respectively. This new arrangement will help to avoid the creation of excessive wave which could affect the safe operation of vessels anchoring or handling cargo in the area.

  4. Vessels Length - to simplify the categorisation of vessels and enable more efficient enforcement, the new speed restrictions will be based on two classes of vessels (up to 60 meters and over 60 meters) instead of the present three (up to 15 meters, between 15 meters and 60 meters, and over 60 meters).

  5. Typhoon Shelters - the speed limit within typhoon shelters will be revised from 3 knots to 5 knots. The new speed limit takes into consideration the present situation within typhoon shelters, the modern design of small vessels and the practical needs of the operators.

  6. Pleasure Vessels Speed Restriction Zones - to provide better protection to swimmers and persons doing water sports in those popular boating areas (mainly in Tai Po, Sai Kung and south of Hong Kong Island), the speed restriction (5 knots from 8 a. m. to midnight during weekends, public holidays and the summer season) which at present only applies to pleasure vessels in these areas will be extended to all vessels.


7. The Marine Department has conducted extensive consultation with the shipping community and various port advisory committees on the proposals. They have indicated support to the proposals and consider them appropriate and practicable.


8. To implement the new speed control system, it is necessary to amend the Shipping and Port Control Regulations. Drafting of the relevant legislative amendments are in progress. The proposal will be submitted to the Legislative Council later this year.

Economic Services Bureau
February 1999