1994/95 WAS A YEAR marked by a growing realisation among members that the future poses a challenge which has to be faced. Much time has been spent by the committee doing just that. This may have given the impression that the Branch faces a lot of problems: I hasten to correct this if that is the impression left. This ship has passed inspection and is seaworthy.
While it is true to say that times of change are never smooth-sailing, it is thinking about how to respond to change that causes the headache rather than any fundamental problem.
The changes do not solely derive from the 1997 question: there is the work of administrating an active branch that is increasing in size plus the whole question of the NI branch/headquarters relationship which is creating needs for the NI as a whole to adjust.
There are now 35 branches in 16 different countries around the world: quite an empire. On the single matter of membership fees and subscriptions this has, under pressure, resulted in fees being revised very substantially downwards for developing nations. All branches, including Hong Kong, need money in order to function. The simple matter of not having enough has been taking up a disproportionate amount of your committee's attention.
Role of the Hong Kong branch
On the positive side we need to remind ourselves that we are the largest branch in the NI. Membership is now 320 and there are many more potential members out there.
We produce, we believe, the best newsletter in the NI. In 1994/95 we will have produced eight issues with a circulation of 420. The enormous advantages we have as a branch in the busiest port in the world should not be discounted.
We are by far the largest body of nautical professionals in Hong Kong. This means we have a lot to offer. The demands for marine professionals and their expertise can only increase in line with marine trade largely driven by China's modernisation and expanding importance on the Pacific rim. High professional standards will have to be maintained and introduced where lacking. This will mean contributions and influence from the NI Hong Kong Branch.
In the last year Hong Kong has been well represented in the pages of Seaways. In turn we may expect the Institute to produce a high standard of guidance to the profession in its publications. The publication of High Speed Craft: A Practical Guide For Deck Officers written by our previous Secretary Paul Owen is a good example. Fred Dagger's work on refrigeration looks as if it might be another.
Our forecast programme of activities for last year, printed and distributed last June, was mainly remarkable for how little we stuck with it. Nevertheless the alternative events put together as the year went along proved to be quite as attractive.
Presentations this year have been most interesting including:
Captain S.K. Anand, Senior Surveyor Marine Dept. on 'Safer Ships-Cleaner Seas', Nick Emmerson, hydrographer, on the establishment of Hong Kong's Hydrographic Office; Roger Tritton, superintendent Royal Hong Kong Police, on the Tolo Channel Barrier.
Visits have been made to the new COSCO HIT container terminal 8 at Kwai Chung and the container ship 'Empress Sea'.
Another permanent fixture was our annual dinner with over 100 diners; Friday lunches in the Officers' Mess, or the Crown and Anchor at the same venue, continue as a popular and regular feature of the Branch calendar.
We maintain representatives on three government committees, namely myself on the Validation Committee of the Hong Kong Registry of Ships, Alan Loynd on the Port Operations Working Group on the Regulation of Marine Traffic, and Dave Ewings on the Pilotage Advisory Committee. All have contributed a response, when issues have demanded. Reports have appeared from time to time in the Newsletter. Whether we need to take a more proactive approach is something we need to discuss.
Publishing the branch newsletter this last year has been difficult. Since our last 'permanent' editor, Mike Pickthome left we have not had a regular editor. The committee members have been taking up this task in turn. This has certainly increased the number of articles published, and adds variety, but does not help with the publishing. Costs have gone up because the printers are doing more, and therefore, charge more. A much appreciated subvention from Headquarters was necessary half way through the year to help. Another will be needed fairly soon unless we get more revenue from advertising in one form or another.
The newsletter reflects both international and local nautical matters of interest to branch members. If this is not the case, branch members need to submit more material for publication that they consider will reflect the interest of their fellow members.
This year we have said goodbye to Alan Pyrke-Director of Marine, a founder member and past committee member of the Branch and Paul Markland (our Chairman for the previous three years).
We are also saying goodbye and thanks to Jim Rogers, our treasurer, and Nick Wilson our newsletter distribution manager. Both will be leaving Hong Kong fairly soon.
Finally my thanks to the present committee and office bearers, and to those who have agreed to serve for this next year; also to our many friends who have provided facilities, boats and time, not the least of whom are Steve Chor of the POC, and China Navigation for meeting venues.
I expect next year to be my last full year in Hong Kong so I will be stepping down as Chairman at the next AGM-always assuming my bosses allow me another full year.
Contributed by Captain Sir Williarn Codrington, FNI
Seaways August 1995