Boat owners profiting by subletting cheap public space, watchdog reveals

Local | 12 Mar 2019 5:26 pm

The Ombudsman has blasted the Marine Department over its management of mooring spaces for private boats, saying its policy and management had only helped some private vessel owners and yacht clubs to make huge profits by making use of public resources, RTHK reports.

The Marine Department has designated 43 areas within Hong Kong waters for close to 2,000 private vessel moorings. More than 800 of the spaces are held by four private yacht clubs.

They are located in waters all over Hong Kong but majority of them are at Aberdeen, Hebe Haven in Sai Kung and the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter.

Vessel owners can make applications to the Marine Department and be given a "written permission" to rent the mooring spaces for a few hundred dollars per month depending on the sizes of the vessels. There was a clause in the permission banning people from subletting these spaces.

However, in 2017, after seeking legal advice, the Marine Department removed the clause. It argued that the private moorings are private properties, and current legislation could not regulate their subletting.

This led to those who were allotted the spots for a few hundred dollars subletting it to others for thousands of dollars.

The watchdog slammed the department, saying "the locations in the waters available for laying the private moorings are limited public resources". The watchdog criticised the department's attitude, saying it should not let people "run a lucrative business at zero risk.''

The Ombudsman, Connie Lau, said on today that a quick search on the internet reveals a lot of advertisements for the subletting of these spaces, at a monthly rent of up to ten thousand dollars. She said it is shocking that the department didn't take any action to tackle what she called a blatant and widespread problem.

"We think this is very undesirable, and also, it goes against the original intent of the legislation,” said Lau.

She pointed out that more than 500 applicants were queuing for a mooring space, some of whom have waited for more than a decade.

The Ombudsman also questioned why four yacht clubs have also been allowed to rent out these private mooring spaces. "The Marine Department is in effect subsidising those yacht clubs with precious public resources," it said.

The report called for a review of the system of allotting mooring spots, intensified spot checks and amending laws to stop abuse of the allotted moors.

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