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Championing new routes in the maritime industry
  • <p>“It’s an ideal field for goal-orientated individuals as the career path within the maritime sector is systematic and clearly laid-out. With jobs ranging from seafaring to engineering to compliance—the industry needs talents with different personalities to fill various roles”</p>
  • <p>“It’s an ideal field for goal-orientated individuals as the career path within the maritime sector is systematic and clearly laid-out. With jobs ranging from seafaring to engineering to compliance—the industry needs talents with different personalities to fill various roles”</p>
  • <p>“It’s an ideal field for goal-orientated individuals as the career path within the maritime sector is systematic and clearly laid-out. With jobs ranging from seafaring to engineering to compliance—the industry needs talents with different personalities to fill various roles”</p>
  • <p>“It’s an ideal field for goal-orientated individuals as the career path within the maritime sector is systematic and clearly laid-out. With jobs ranging from seafaring to engineering to compliance—the industry needs talents with different personalities to fill various roles”</p>

“It’s an ideal field for goal-orientated individuals as the career path within the maritime sector is systematic and clearly laid-out. With jobs ranging from seafaring to engineering to compliance—the industry needs talents with different personalities to fill various roles”

Dec 2016

Hong Kong has come a long way from its days as a small fishing village and, between 1992 and 1997, was considered the world’s busiest container port. The continued development of other nearby ports over the last few decades, however, has brought some challenges to Hong Kong’s traditional advantages. Ms Sabrina Chao, Vice-chairman, Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings Ltd and Chairwoman, Hong Kong Ship-owners Association knows, more than most that Hong Kong is still very much at the forefront of the maritime industry.

The Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board (HKMPB) was set up by the HKSAR Government on 1 April 2016 to formulate timely policies that help steer Hong Kong safely through the new challenges it faces in this sector and preserve its leading role in the global maritime market. Being one of the members of HKMPB, Ms Chao highlighted key factors that have greatly contributed to the success of the Hong Kong maritime business. She said, “The fact that Hong Kong’s maritime laws are based on English Law and exist within a well-structured legal system is a key factor that attracts shipping companies to Hong Kong. On top of that, Hong Kong possesses a strong pool of expertise providing professional support to the business.”

Despite this, increasing demand for the direct transport of goods in China has catalysed fast-paced port development in mainland China. Moreover, in Singapore proactive government support means it is also now rising as a strong competitor to Hong Kong. Ms Chao cautioned, “It may be time to re-evaluate and update policies in order to stay ahead of the game.” With this in mind, one of the major objectives of the HKMPB is to formulate manpower development strategies and initiatives to address the needs of the maritime industry.

In terms of hiring the right talent for the maritime industry, Ms Chao emphasised the importance of looking at practical seafaring experience. She explained, “In the maritime sector, managers need to have hands-on experience to fully understand what is required when the captain calls them. Handling crises isn’t something you can master simply by reading case studies. In such cases, textbook learning is no substitute for practical seafaring experience.” She was also quick to point out that the maritime industry considers a degree secondary to seafaring experience and that many of their staff had climbed the corporate ladder from the bottom up.

Many hold the perception that seafaring is a lifelong career, requiring a commitment to spending long periods away from one’s hometown and family. And although possibly a whole-life journey, the talent gain experiences are highly transferrable assets—enabling seafarers to acquire more senior land-based positions. Within the sector, aside from accumulating seafaring experience to obtain qualification as a captain, young talent can also opt for career development in the mechanical stream—all commercial ships have engine rooms and need specialised talent to help keep them running.

There are numerous career paths open in the maritime industry with jobs readily available for those with good English language skills. Ms Chao’s organisation alone employs 80 to 100 shipping cadets each year and she advised, “People considering a career in the maritime industry should take the initiative to talk to people in the industry and also enhance their English skills. It’s an ideal field for goal-orientated individuals as the career path within the maritime sector is systematic and clearly laid-out. With jobs ranging from seafaring to engineering to compliance—the industry needs talents with different personalities to fill various roles.”

Ms Chao was born and raised surrounded by the maritime industry and believes it is a great industry to be involved with in terms of career development and forging lifelong friendships. The first chairwoman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association humbly remarked on her goals during the tenure, “I hope to coordinate the industry with the Government on key policies to help sharpen Hong Kong’s competitive advantage in the global maritime business. Manpower development and crew welfare are my key areas of focus.”

The maritime business in Hong Kong is far bigger than what we simply see in the local port. Hong Kong is ranked 4th largest in terms of ship registrations in the world—with business reaching right around the world. Despite the challenges ahead, Ms Chao remains optimistic about the future of the maritime industry in Hong Kong and concluded, “The most economic and environmentally-friendly way of moving cargo around the world is shipping. Business still exists and so do the opportunities.”

Engineering Discipline