Hong Kong marina berths - full to bursting, and SO expensive

full to bursting Marina Club - Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Causeway Bay, HK island, Hong Kong, China. photo by B.Henry
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If you think your marina berth is too expensive, spare a thought for yacht owners in Hong Kong. Berths are now so few and so expensive that yacht brokers are complaining that they are actually losing out on sales. Why is this happening? Read on...

A shortage of marina berths in Hong Kong is pushing slip prices to record levels. Local yacht brokers say that berth fees have doubled or even tripled in the last two to three years.

'What’s happening to the property market is happening to the boating market on a smaller scale,' Baggy Sartape, a broker with Asia Boating, told CNBC. Property prices in Hong Kong have increased by 50 per cent since 2009. Despite that, Sartape said the city’s eight marinas are running at near full capacity, largely because of an influx of yachts brought in by wealthy businessmen from mainland China.

A monthly slip fee for a 50ft motoryacht is equivalent to the rent of a studio apartment in downtown Hong Kong. While the rising prices have proven a boon to marina owners, local brokers say that the shortage of berths has hurt new and used boat sales.

About 6,700 recreational vessels are registered in Hong Kong, with about 1,500 on docks. The remaining boats are on moorings.

Mike Simpson, managing director of Simpson Marine, said that Hong Kong comprised 65 per cent of the brokerage firms’s Asia business before the financial crisis. But the shortage of slip spaces has depressed that share to 10 to 15 per cent. 'A reason given to me by a person high up in the government, who in fact owns a yacht, is that Hong Kong doesn’t want to be seen favoring the rich as it would not make a good headline,' Simpson told the news service.

'It’s been enormously frustrating turning down customers... some customers will never get a berth until a new marina is built,' Bart J. Kimman, managing director of Northrop and Johnson, told the news service.

The government says it has no plans to construct new marinas. The Hong Kong Marine Department does not see an issue with the exorbitant prices. 'The rental price of berths is justified by the demand,' Philip Wong, the department’s spokesperson, told CNBC. Wong added that typhoon shelters, small coves set up to protect boats from typhoons, provide a sufficient alternative to marinas in the city.

The brokers say, without a long-term plan to increase slip space, that Hong Kong is losing business to China and Singapore. Some said that Hong Kong is missing a 'golden opportunity' to become the Monaco of Asia.