In the run up to 1997, and the return of Hong Kong to mainland China, a mood of uncertainty fell over the territory. Hong Kong’s shipping community was not alone in considering an alternative location to set up business.
Jardine Matheson notably de-listed in Hong Kong and listed in Singapore. Among shipping companies, big names such as the TCC Group and Valles Steamship as well as Oak Maritime established a presence in Vancouver along with thousands of Hong Kong citizens. Many stayed including the shipping companies mentioned. Meanwhile Seaspan, which operates out of Hong Kong, has a significant presence in Vancouver today.
Realising it was on to a good thing the government of Canada pushed funding into creating a formal maritime centre – the Vancouver International Maritime Centre. Now for reasons not yet known the same government appears to have pulled the plug on the operation, run so capably over the years by executive director, Kaity Arsoniadis-Stein
A deeply disappointed Ms Arsoniadis-Stein commented: “Our project had a three-year mandate and was completed on time under budget and surpassing all targets. Unfortunately half way through the project both the federal and provincial governments changed and we couldn’t get a further mandate. As you know supporting previous administrations projects isn’t popular!
“I knew the potential for Vancouver regarding attracting intern shipping companies was good. Now as we finish this project I can say it’s actually enormous. It’s a pity we failed to convince the Government.”
In a September 2017 report on Leading Maritime Capitals of the World” Menon Economics said of Vancouver:
The “Maritime Industry in Vancouver is well established and growing” due to the attractive location, strong and transparent banking system and government support in Vancouver. The report suggests with continued government support, Vancouver “will improve its competitiveness and global position within the maritime industry in the future”.
In February 2017, Monitor Deloitte conducted an EU Shipping Competitiveness Study that concluded: This report benchmarks EU maritime hubs against the 5 leading global hubs, and for the first time, Vancouver makes this list alongside global giants: Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dubai.
According to Vancouver’s local business press the funding for the VIMC ran out in March this year with little hope of it being restored.
“The departure of the Vancouver International Maritime Centre (VIMC) looms as a significant loss for more than the city’s global shipping hub aspirations. It will be a major missed opportunity for industry diversification in British Columbia,” said Business Vancouver.
As tensions rise again in Hong Kong, some 27 years after the handover, Vancouver is unlikely to be a first choice. Instead Singapore will reap the benefits.