Hong Kong Annual Report, 1957/Chapter 15

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The Colony of Hong Kong owes its existence to its position as a major communications centre on the China Coast. Although in the course of the years the emphasis has to some extent shifted from purely entrepôt and other commercial activities to the development of local industries, described in Chapter 6, the Colony still depends as much as ever upon the efficient organization and control of facilities for shipping, aircraft, rail and road transport, postal services and telecommunications.


The Port of Victoria is renowned not only for the beauty of its natural features, which are described in Chapter 22, but also for its excellent port facilities and handling rate, which are comparable with those of any other first-class port.

The administration of the Port is vested in the Director of Marine who, in close co-operation with local commercial interests represented on advisory Port Committees, seeks continuously to stimulate the development of ever higher standards of service, opportunity and safety in its use.

The Port is well equipped with modern aids to navigation, both in the approaches and within the Harbour area, and all lights have been fully re-established and modernized since the war. At Waglan Island there is a light with a visibility of 21 miles together with a diaphone fog signal; at Tathong Point a powerful electric oscillator fog signal is now in use; and the light installed on Green Island at the western end of the Harbour has a visibility of 16 miles.

The main approach to Hong Kong is marked by a radio beacon and appropriately spaced radar reflectors so that entrance may be effected at all times. The Harbour itself is well lighted and singularly free from submerged dangers. The eastern entrance can be used by ocean-going vessels with a draught not exceeding 36 feet, whilst the western entrance was dredged during the year to give a channel for vessels not exceeding 30 feet, the previous limit having been 24 feet. Pilotage is not compulsory but is advisable due to large-scale reclamations and harbour-works which are now in progress.

Each entrance is covered by a Quarantine Examination Anchorage with Port Health Officer's launches on duty from 7 a.m. to sunset in summer and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in winter. This arrangement expedites the granting of pratique and prevents unnecessary movements within the crowded Harbour. Immigration formalities and such customs inspections as may be necessary are also completed at these anchorages so that passengers are free to go ashore as soon as vessels have reached their final berth.

Ship/shore communications are provided by three Signal Stations, each manned continuously and fitted with modern daylight signal lamps, which provide coverage for all anchorages within the Harbour and its approaches. In addition, Waglan Lighthouse operates a Signal Station equipped with a radiotelephone which enables the first information of all vessels sighted in the eastern approaches to be passed immediately to the Port Authorities, owners and agents. Radiotelephones are also installed in Marine, Port Health, Police, Preventive Service and Fire Fighting launches. Sets may also be hired commercially with a direct connexion to the land telephone system.

The internal security of the Harbour and the waters of the Colony is maintained by the Marine Division of the Hong Kong Police, who man and operate a fleet of 24 Police Launches. All these launches are in radiotelephone communication with the Control Room at Police Headquarters.

A modern ocean-going fire float is kept in constant readiness, together with other fire fighting craft suitable for work in the shallower waters of the Colony.

Regular services are maintained by 17 shipping lines to Europe and the United Kingdom; 20 to the North American continent; nine to Australia and New Zealand; as well as lines to Africa and South America, and innumerable lines to Asian ports from Yokohama and Karachi. Moreover the attractive and efficient facilities available for the handling of cargo and passengers in the Port have convinced traders that it is economical and generally beneficial to their interests to use Hong Kong as a warehousing, transhipping and bunkering point.

Safe berths are available to all vessels with draughts up to 36 feet, at all states of the tide. Commercial wharves can accommodate vessels up to 750 feet in length and a maximum of 32 feet in draught, and the Government maintains for hire 50 moorings, 18 of which are specially designed to withstand typhoon conditions.

Cargo-handling compares favourably with the most advanced ports. Efficient, modern methods, a plentiful supply of labour, lighterage, road-transport and experienced staffs, capable of undertaking any operation from the stowage of special cargoes to the handling of heavy-lifts and bulk oils, make the Port popular with all connected with shipping. 750,000 measurement tons (mainland) and 230,000 measurement tons (island) of godown space is equipped for ordinary, refrigerated and dangerous goods storage.

Ships' bunkers are supplied by three of the major oil companies, whilst coal and fresh water can be supplied alongside at any berth in the Port or at the oil-installation wharves. The supply of fresh water is generally only restricted in the dry winter months.

There are eleven cross-harbour ferry services, including one passenger/vehicular service, which, operating frequent schedules, transported more than 127,000,000 people and 1,300,000 vehicles in 1957. There is also a number of ferry services operating outside the harbour area to Aberdeen and coastal towns or villages of the New Territories. The more important ferry services are described in greater detail in Chapter 14. At night the illuminated ferries in conjunction with other shipping from part of the galaxy of lights which constitutes the typical Hong Kong night-scene.

Colony development is also assisted by native-type craft, of which more than 20,000 operate in Hong Kong waters, engaged in various occupations from fishing to the transport of cargo. During the year, in the internal trades these craft transported more than 600,000 tons of cargo inward and 100,000 tons outward, whilst in trade with China they imported large quantities of foodstuffs, their total external trade for 1957 amounting to about 1,100,000 tons inward and 119,083 tons of cargo outward. About 1,500 junks operate inside Hong Kong Harbour itself, transporting thousands of tons of cargo to and from ocean-going shipping.

Hong Kong, as a result of its efficiency run shipyards and engineering establishments, continued over the year to obtain from local and overseas owners its fair share of both new and repair work which the world-wide demand for tonnage of all types has occasioned. Placed geographically nearly midway between Singapore and Japan, the only two other competitors in this type of work in the Far East, Hong Kong is able to give the ships of the many nationalities which pass through the port the best possible attention with a speed and efficiency which is rapidly becoming known throughout the world. Details of the year's work are given at pages 82, 83 of Chapter 6.

Facilities are provided for the examination of candidates for Certificates of Competency as Extra Masters, Masters, Mates and Engineers, and in Radar Maintenance, whilst seamen are examined for Certificates of Efficiency as Life-boatmen. As befits an international port, the supervision given by Resident Surveyors of all the major Classification Societies and by Government Surveyors working under the Director of Marine covers every aspect of the International Maritime Conventions, including that for the Safety of Life at Sea.

At Port Welfare Committee attends to the welfare of the crews of visiting ships and allocates the monies provided by private donation and Government grant, amounting in all this year to over $180,000, to organizations devoted to that end. Several well-equipped clubs, one of which is managed by the Port Welfare Committee itself, serve the recreational needs of the visiting seamen.

During the financial year ending 31st March, 1957, (figures for 1955-6 are shown in brackets) 7,650 (7,870) ocean-going vessels of 21,981,848 (21,807,590) net tons, 2,289 (2,272) river steamers of 2,291,376 (2,585,760) net tons, and 31,101 (28,557) junks and launches of 2,565,654 (2,281,021) net tons, entered and cleared the Port.

A total of 1,301,227 (1,306,918) passengers were embarked and disembarked; of these, 59,688 (53,017) were carried by ocean-going vessels, and 1,241,539 (1,253,901) by river steamers.

Weight tons of cargo discharged and loaded were as follows:

Discharged Loaded
Ocean-going vessels 3,571,332 (3,426,583) 1,751,092 (1,628,181)
River Steamers 14,383 (12,379) 19,942 (18,291)
Junks and Launches 1,103,679 (782,675) 118,283 (74,403)

Kowloon-Canton Railway[edit]

Kowloon is the southern terminal of a railway system extending to Hankow, with connexions to North, East and South-West China. The British Section of the line, which is 22 miles long, is owned by the Hong Kong Government and is operated between Kowloon and Lo Wu on the southern bank of the Sham Chun River, which forms part of the Colony's frontier with China. Through services were formerly operated to Canton and to the North, but since October 1949, when the Central People's Government was established, through passenger services have been suspended. Passengers proceeding to and from China change trains at the frontier. Goods traffic in wagon-loads has been passing to and from China without off-loading at the frontier since 1950.

The total revenue for 1957 was $8,427,347. Operating expenditure was $4,309,314, leaving a net operating revenue of $4,118,033. The corresponding figures for the previous year were $7,575,528, $3,766,301, and $3,809,227 respectively. The net operating revenue for 1957 is, therefore, $308,806 more than last year. Capital expenditure was $3,071,693.

Passenger traffic increased by 750,893 compared with 1956, and goods traffic decreased by 11,772 tons.

Passenger carried within the territory of Hong Kong were 4,385,320 or 77.88% of the total. Passengers to and from the frontier station of Lo Wu numbered 1,245,199 and the majority of these travelled between Hong Kong and China. At present, passengers passing from British to Chinese territory or vice versa walk the 300 yards separating the two termini.

Negotiations with the Chinese Railway authorities on the resumption of a through train service have not been reopened since their suspension in August 1956. No agreement could be reached at that time on the immigration control into Hong Kong, and no fresh proposals have been made by the Chinese authorities for resolving the deadlock.

The last of the three diesel-electric locomotives ordered from Australia in June 1956 arrived in August 1957. All trains are now operated by a fleet of five diesel-electric locomotives. Steam engines are not likely to be used unless an engine breakdown occurs.

Statistics for 1957 (with figures for 1956 in brackets) are as follows:

Length of line : Main line—22 miles
Total length of line—35 miles
Main points of call : New Territories (Hong Kong)
Passengers carried : 5,630,519 (4,879,626)
Freight carried : 203,954.41 tons (215,726)
Passengers miles : 73,299,030 (65,435,406)


With the construction during the year of 13 miles of new road, the total length of roads now exceeds 463 miles. The Colony has many hilly roads which are both tortuous and steep; gradients of 1 in 7 are common; and there is more than half a mile of stepped streets, mostly in Western District on the Island, closed to vehicular traffic. Most roads are paved and compare favourably with those of any English city.

Details of the lengths of different types of paving are as follows:

Island Kowloon New Territories Total Miles
(a) Unsurfaced
(b) With bitumen surface
Bitumen Macadam 74 24 70 168
Water-bound Macadam 36 61 53 150
Earth 9.5 4 12 25.5
Steps .5 .5
Total miles 186.5 124 153 463.5

Traffic has increased over the past few years until today there are some 33,000 vehicles. If these were spaced equally round all the roads of the Colony, there would be only 20 yards of space between each vehicle. Since, however, only a small proportion of the roads carries most of the daily traffic, the increase in traffic, and in particular the extension of bus routes, has made road maintenance a serious problem, the carrying capacity of many roads being unequal to the loadings imposed on them and so necessitating reconstruction.

The problem was aggravated this year by the exceptional rainstorms in May which caused considerable damage, washing away complete sections of some roads and destroying the surfaces of others. At the height of the rains on 22nd May many main roads were closed by flooding or landslides, King's Road on the Island and the Tai Po Road being particularly severely damaged. It is estimated that $6,000,000 has so far been spent in repairs, restoration of road surfaces and rebuilding of bridges in the New Territories, the opportunity being taken at the same time to effect some improvements.

A typhoon in June caused further damage to repair work still in progress after the previous damage, but eventually the work was completed and as a result there was even some slight improvement to the alignment of Tai Po Road in one of two places.


The number of vehicles registered in the Colony was 32,924, excluding trailers, hand-carts, public chairs and bicycles. This is an overall increase of 3,920 over 1956. There is now a density of 71 vehicles for every mile of roadway.

Private cars 22,474
Motor Cycles 1,948
Taxis 693
Buses 724
Goods Vehicles 4,336
Crown Vehicles 1,077
Rickshaws 874
Pedal Tricycles 798
Total 32,924

Multi-Storey Car Park[edit]

Hong Kong's first multi-storey car park was opened in December at the Star Ferry Concourse on the central reclamation in Victoria. The three-storey building which has parking space for 400 cars is open day and night. At the end of the year fees at the rate of $1.00 for five hours were tending to discourage long-term parking, since there was still sufficient alternative free parking space available in the central area; but the 50 cent rate for two hours or less made the car park fairly popular with shoppers and other motorists paying only a short visit to town. The building is being operated by the Urban Services Department, under the general control of the Urban Council. A start was also made in 1957 on the erection of a second car park, housing 190 cars, on the central reclamation.

Cross-Harbour Tunnel and Bridge[edit]

After considering the conclusions of an Inter-departmental Working Party appointed to examine the question of a Cross-Harbour Tunnel between Hong Kong and Kowloon on the basis of a report by Messrs. Mott, Hay and Anderson, Consulting Engineers, published in 1955, the Government announced in July 1956 that it had decided in present circumstances not to undertake the construction of such a tunnel, and that this decision also applied to a cross-harbour bridge. This subject continued to occupy much public interest and discussion during the year, as did the Government's announcement in September that in case a workable scheme for a cross-harbour bridge should be devised, sufficient space at Morrison Hill for a bridge terminal would be kept undeveloped until May 1959. It was subsequently announced that, regardless of whether or not a tunnel or bridge is ever built, the Government had decided to provide a second cross-harbour vehicular-ferry service as quickly as possible and that a private engineer had been engaged to design and supervise the construction of ferry piers at Hung Hom and North Point.

Civil Aviation[edit]

Post Office[edit]


Cable and Wireless Ltd. operate 16 high-speed wireless telegraph circuits working with all the major centres of the Far East and with Europe, and three modern-type duplex submarine cables connected to the Company's world-wide network of 142,500 miles of submarine cable.

The Company is responsible for all telegraph services between Hong Kong and overseas, for telegraph and radiotelephone services with ships at sea, and for VHF Harborphone service with ships anchored in the Port of Victoria. It also provides a service for internal telegrams throughout the Colony, and is responsible for the technical maintenance of the Colony's broadcasting and aeradio services, meteorological radio services and most of the VHF communications of various Government departments.

During the year a new commercial wireless telegraph service was opened with Okinawa, and there was an increase in the number of circuits leased to commercial firms.

Local firms continue to appreciate the advantage of having a Teleprinter installed in their office and during the year additional installations were carried out.

The overseas Radiotelephone services, worked in conjunction with the Hong Kong Telephone Company, expanded, the hours of the schedules to some countries being extended and new services opened to the U.S.S.R. and the Yukon. New radiotelephone relay circuits were opened between Indonesia/Macau, Okinawa/Bangkok, and Okinawa/Seoul.

Traffic figures for 1957 were:

Telegrams transmitted 920,300
Telegrams delivered 1,098,700
Telegrams in transit 433,800
Radiotelephone, inward calls, minutes 543,600
Radiotelephone, outward calls, minutes 429,400
Radio pictures transmitted (98 pictures) 29,397 sq. cms.
Radio pictures received (10 pictures) 1,915 sq. cms.
Press broadcasts, words handled 41,924,000
Meteorological broadcasts, words handled 564,000
Harborphone calls with ships in harbour 45,439


The Colony's internal telephone service is provided by the Hong Kong Telephone Company Ltd., a public company operating under statutory control. Radiotelephone service is available to most parts of the world in co-operation with Cable and Wireless Ltd.

The system is fully automatic and service is provided from five major exchanges and a number of satellite exchanges. Construction of two more major exchanges in Kowloon, with a combined ultimate capacity of 32,000 lines, will commence in 1958 and is scheduled for completion in 1959.

During the year two new exchanges, one in the Western District of Victoria and one in Aberdeen, were brought into service, in addition to extensions to existing major exchanges. The Company's system now comprises some 53,000 direct exchange lines and 21,000 extensions, making an approximate total of 74,800 stations. Demand for service continues to grow, and planning for additional exchanges to meet this demand continues.

Despite increasing costs, telephone rentals remain unaltered and are possibly the lowest in the world. Rentals are charged on a 'flat rate' basis at $300 per annum for a business line and $225 per annum for a residential line. For this fee the subscriber may make as many local calls as he wishes.

Meteorological Services[edit]

The Royal Observatory, which is the sole source of weather information in Hong Kong, provides forecasts for the general public, shipping, aviation and the Armed Forces. A central forecast office and a meteorological communications centre were opened at the Observatory in May 1957. Since then the central office has been supplying analyzed weather charts by facsimile to the Kai Tak Airport forecast office, which serves only the needs of aviation. In addition to its meteorological duties, the Observatory operates a seismological and a time service.

A general increase in the number of weather reports received from other centres and from ships contributed greatly to forecasting during 1957.

The Royal Observatory's most important function is to give warning of storms. Whenever a tropical depression, storm or typhoon moves into the China Sea, 6-hourly and often 3-hourly statements of position, intensity and direction of movement of the centre are issued. Frequent, reliable ship reports and storm reconnaissances by aircraft help to locate storms accurately. When the Colony itself is threatened, the local storm warning system is brought into use, and warnings are widely distributed by means of visual signals, telephone, radio and Rediffusion.

Five tropical storms or typhoons affected Hong Kong during the year, and gale signals were displayed on three occasions. No.10 typhoon warning signal was hoisted in September when the centre of typhoon Gloria was approaching.

Storm warning signals were displayed for a total of 293 hours and the strong monsoon signal for 380 hours.

For details of the year's weather, see pages 325, 326 of Chapter 22.

Meteorological Research[edit]

Less time was devoted during 1957 to research than in previous years owing to the extra commitments associated with the opening of the central forecast office and with the International Geophysical Year. New seismological equipment was installed, but Hong Kong's main contribution to the Geophysical Year was in the field of meteorology. Radiosonde ascents were increased to two a day, and both radiosonde and radarwind observations were carried out to higher levels than formerly.

Work continued on a long-term project to determine whether afforestation would affect the run-off of surface water in Tai Po Kau Forestry Reserve by increasing condensation in foggy conditions. The re-analysis of tracks of typhoons and tropical depressions for the period 1884 - 1953 was completed and publication commenced. In addition, monthly rainfall maps were prepared for Hong Kong and the New Territories. Papers entitled 'A Climatological Study of Tropical Cyclones over the China Seas' and 'The Horizontal Distribution of Rainfall over a Small Area in the Tropics' were presented by the Director at the Ninth Pacific Science Congress at Bangkok, when he also convened a Symposium on Intertropical Convergence Zone, Thunder Storms and Tropical Clouds.