Given the importance of the transportation and logistics industries to the Hong Kong economy, it is perhaps surprising that, until recently, the Law Society had no specialist committee devoted to such matters. Happily, this has now been rectified, and the inaugural meeting of the Transportation and Logistics Committee was held earlier this year. Indeed, at the time of writing, the Committee has already held two meetings.
The terms of reference of the Committee are:
• To review, examine and comment on any issues relating to the transportation and logistics industries in Hong Kong (including marine, shipping, aviation, road, rail and air transport and cargo industries) by making proposals and recommendations to the Council
• As and when requested by Council and the Standing Committee on Practitioners Affairs, to liaise with and to make representations and submissions to the Government and relevant external bodies (e.g. Legislative Council and trade associations)
• To help promote the profession's contribution to transportation and logistics generally and as part of the Hong Kong's role as an international dispute resolution centre and transportation and logistics hub
The Committee is chaired by Mr. Steven Wise and includes Council Member Robert Rhoda, along with ten other practitioners representing a broad range of experience. Members in private practice include those working in marine, aviation, rail and logistics, both contentious and transactional. The Committee also has the benefit of insights from two in-house lawyers in the rail and aviation sectors.
Hong Kong has long been a leading international centre for shipping, aviation and logistics of all kinds. According to Lloyd's List, the Hong Kong SAR flag ranks fourth in the world in terms of gross tonnage of ships registered (as at December 2017). According to the Airports Council International, in 2017 Hong Kong was the world's largest air cargo handling centre and also ranked eighth by passenger numbers.
Transportation and logistics are key elements of the Belt and Road Initiative and Greater Bay Area. They were also highlighted by the Chief Executive in her 2017 Policy Address, in which she emphasised the need to consolidate Hong Kong's status as "an international maritime and aviation centre and a hub for people flows and cargo flows".
Commenting on the recently formed Committee, its Chairman Steven Wise noted:
"These are exciting times for solicitors practising in transportation and logistics in Hong Kong. We see renewed support from Government for these industries, and there are great opportunities for firms of all sizes, for both contentious and transactional lawyers, and for those working in-house.
"However, continual growth and expansion of this sector requires a clear, modern and efficient legal and regulatory structure. That structure must also be kept under continuous review to ensure that it meets the challenges of new technologies and new ways of doing business.
With that in mind, it is apt that the first substantive piece of work undertaken by the Committee was the preparation of a response to a Civil Aviation Department Consultation Paper on the Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (colloquially known as 'drones')."