Mooring moneymakers in hot water

Top News | Daphne Li 13 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman has lashed out at the unreasonable subletting arrangement of private vessel moorings by the Marine Department, saying the government should amend the law to ban the decade-long malpractice.

Private moorings with a monthly rent of HK$210 in Pak Sha Wan are sublet at a staggering price of HK$3,500, the watchdog found.

Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing criticized the department for turning a blind eye to the subletting activities.

"The private mooring spaces should not be occupied by owners with vested interests," she said.

Prior to 2017, the written permission issued by the department included a clause stipulating the private mooring space rented by an individual owner was for the exclusive use of a "designated vessel."

However, the watchdog found there was no enforcement action between 2008 and 2013, even though the department found over 40 percent of the spaces were not used by registered owners.

The department later removed the relevant condition from the written permission in 2017, after discovering the current legislation does not outlaw subletting activities. Even though the subletting arrangement is lawful under current legislation, Lau said it does not suggest the practice is "reasonable" and urged the department to review the current legal framework.

"While the private moorings are private property, the locations in the water available for laying them are limited public resources," the Ombudsman's report said.

It also revealed 41 out of the 43 private mooring areas are now fully occupied and there are over 500 applicants on a waiting list, with applicants' waiting times stretched to more than 14 years.

Among the 1,921 occupied private mooring spaces, over 860 are owned by four private yacht clubs.

"The Marine Department is in effect subsidizing those yacht clubs with precious public resources," the report said.

The Ombudsman also urged the department to review the charging mechanism for laying private moorings as the administration fee has not been adjusted for 24 years.

The report revealed that some local shipyards violated land use conditions and rent out the slipways for yachts to berth.

It added the Lands Department is responsible for the enforcement of short-term tenancies.

Lawmaker Au Nok-hin urged the Marine Department to review the actual service provided by local shipyards in order to map out suitable policies with the Transport and Housing Bureau.

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