Bjorn Hojgaard, chief executive of Anglo Eastern Group, Hong Kong’s largest ship manager, has thrown his weight behind a proposal to halve corporate tax rates for ship leasing companies and maritime support firms to 8.25%.
In May this year Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council set out a series of radical proposals, which aim to boost the territory’s competitiveness as a regional maritime centre.
Chief among the proposals in the report entitled “Maritime Leasing Paper” were tax concessions for ship leasing management and shipping-related support services activity. The suggested profits tax rate to be set no higher than 8.25%.
Such a proposal if implemented would put maritime on an equal footing with Hong Kong’s aviation leasing businesses, which have benefited from a similar concession since 2017.
Mr Hojgaard, head of a company managing 647 vessels, employing 27,000 crew as well as staff in offices in Hong Kong and overseas, was happy to concede that Anglo Eastern Group would directly benefit from the measure.
As the deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association and a member of the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board he emphasized the enormous boost it would provide to the territory’s aspirations as the region’s premier maritime centre.
“If this [tax concession] was enacted as set down in the initial proposal, and maritime service providers including ship management were to be included we would all definitely benefit.
“I am absolutely positive,” he added. “If the tax concessions were implemented it would bring new business to Hong Kong that would not otherwise come here. And it will bring businesses that have left in the past back to Hong Kong. There is no doubt about it. If it happens it will be a huge positive for the territory.”
Mr Hojgaard said he had been hugely impressed by what he sees as a government that has in the last couple of years become much more receptive to the needs of Hong Kong’s shipping industry.
“There is a new found dialogue between the various government departments and the industry, which we are grateful for,” he said.
Since the establishment of the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board in 2016, a number of initiatives have been implemented by the Marine Department that have made ship operations out of Hong Kong smoother and more efficient. But there remains a sense within the industry that only measures as radical as those proposed in the FSDC report will finally reverse the fortunes of Hong Kong as a maritime centre.
The Transport and Housing Bureau of the Hong Kong Government is currently considering the FSDC proposals.