Marine insurers raise a sky-high toast to their Hong Kong hosts, By James Brewer
IUMI took the slow boat to China, as Hong Kong administrative leader CY Leung gently chided. Only in its 140th year did the International Union of Marine Insurance organise its annual conference on Chinese soil.
The 632 people attending from IUMI’s 48 national associations, its professional partner category, sponsors and spouses enjoyed variously a raft of presentations on key marine and offshore topics, and social events including an opening reception on the sky100 observation deck at the 100th floor of the tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre. From 393 m above sea level, this tower offers 360-degree views of the territory and its spectacular Victoria Harbour.
On the Tuesday evening of the conference, guests took the famed Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to the Maritime Museum – which is funded jointly by the government and the maritime community – and which has undergone a $115m transfer to a new site at the central piers of Hong Kong Island, for a reception hosted by law firm Holman Fenwick Willan. To round off the IUMI days, there was a sumptuous dinner with entertainment programme on the glittering floating restaurant Jumbo Kingdom.
Outgoing and incoming presidents of IUMI, Ole Wikborg and Dieter Berg, warmly praised the hard work of the conference hosts, the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers. The federation has 87 general insurance members and 43 life insurance members.
Agnes Choi, chairman of the conference organising committee, said: “Marine insurance has a deep rooted history in Hong Kong since 1841. Today, we have one of the world’s busiest container ports, Kwai Chung Container Terminal, and a newly opened state of the art cruise terminal in Kai Tak. We foresee increasing demand for maritime and cargo insurance, not in the city alone, but also the Asia Pacific region as a whole.” Hong Kong handled more than 20m teu in 2013.
In her organisational drive, Ms Choi was supported by Joanne Chan, Vivian Ho, Timothy Lee, Raymond Ng, Harry Wong, Peter Tam, and others at the federation, and the professional conference organising company ICC.
In a post-conference message to delegates, Ms Choi said: “Thanks to the excellent presentations and discussions, I believe you have gained some new insights and are now better prepared for the many challenges ahead.”
The conference took place at a sensitive political time, with the domestic Occupy Central ‘pro-democracy’ movement preparing to camp out on main roads in the financial centre on October 1 and 2, China National Day public holidays, and threatening to invade government buildings, but there was no direct impact on the marine insurance event.
Mr Leung, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, had said in his welcome to the conference that part of the shift from West to East, in insurance as in business in general “has been driven by the reforms, the open door policies and the economic growth of China in the past 36 years. From day one, Hong Kong, including the many foreign businesses based here, has been part of the China success story.”
He said that Hong Kong port remained one of the world’s busiest, currently supported by some 380 liner services a week. The Hong Kong Shipping Register is the fourth-largest in the world, with a total gross tonnage of 89m. The city’s 700 shipping-related companies offer ship management, broking and chartering, finance, marine insurance, maritime law and arbitration, support shipping services, and more.
“Hong Kong has what it takes to become an important international maritime centre for the Mainland of China and the Asia-Pacific region in general, ” declared the leader.
Mr Leung said: “To promote the long-term growth of the maritime industry, we are looking to establish a statutory maritime body. Given dedicated resources, it would generate the policy initiatives essential to the continuing development of Hong Kong’s maritime industry, especially our maritime services.
“Expanding the industry’s pool of talent is no less important. With that in mind, the Hong Kong Government in April launched a HK$100m Maritime and Aviation Training Fund. It includes financial support for the professional training and skill enhancement of Hong Kong maritime insurance practitioners.”
Mr Berg, newly elected president of IUMI, said: “We shall never forget the spirit of the city and the friendly people of Hong Kong.”