Victoria Harbour

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Coordinates: 22°17′15.91″N114°10′25.03″E / 22.2877528°N 114.1736194°E / 22.2877528; 114.1736194

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

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Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong Victoria Harbour Pano View from ICC 201105.jpg
Daytime view of Victoria Harbour from Sky100 International Commerce Centre
Traditional Chinese 維多利亞港
Simplified Chinese 维多利亚港

Victoria Harbour is a natural landform harbour separating Hong Kong Island in the south from the Kowloon Peninsula to the north. The harbour's deep, sheltered waters and strategic location on the South China Sea were instrumental in Hong Kong's establishment as a British colony and its subsequent development as a trading centre.

Harbor Sheltered body of water where ships may shelter

A harbor or harbour is a sheltered body of water where ships, boats, and barges can be docked. The term harbor is often used interchangeably with port, which is a man-made facility built for loading and unloading vessels and dropping off and picking up passengers. Ports usually include one or more harbors. Alexandria Port in Egypt is an example of a port with two harbors.

Hong Kong Island second largest island in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Island is an island in the southern part of Hong Kong. It has a population of 1,289,500 and its population density is 16,390/km², as of 2008. The island had a population of about 3,000 inhabitants scattered in a dozen fishing villages when it was occupied by the United Kingdom in the First Opium War. In 1842, the island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the UK under the Treaty of Nanking and the City of Victoria was then established on the island by the British Force in honour of Queen Victoria.

Kowloon Peninsula peninsula that forms the southern part of the main landmass in the territory of Hong Kong

The Kowloon Peninsula is a peninsula that forms the southern part of the main landmass in the territory of Hong Kong. The Kowloon Peninsula and the area of New Kowloon are collectively known as Kowloon.

Throughout its history, the harbour has seen numerous reclamation projects undertaken on both shores, many of which have caused controversy in recent years. Environmental concerns have been expressed about the effects of these expansions, in terms of water quality and loss of natural habitat. It has also been proposed that benefits of land reclamation may be less than the effects of decreased harbour width, affecting the number of vessels passing through the harbour. Nonetheless Victoria Harbour still retains its founding role as a port for thousands of international vessels each year.

Land reclamation in Hong Kong

The reclamation of land from the ocean has long been used in mountainous Hong Kong to expand the limited supply of usable land with a total of around 60 square kilometres of land created by 1996. The first reclamations can be traced back to the early Western Han Dynasty, when beaches were turned into fields for salt production. Major land reclamation projects have been conducted since the mid-19th century.

View of Victoria Harbour from a hill, 1845 Ge Lian Chen Shang Wei Hui Zhi De Wei Duo Li Ya Gang Di Xing Tu Victoria Harbour drawn by Thomas Bernard Collinson, 1845.jpg
View of Victoria Harbour from a hill, 1845

The harbour is a major tourist attraction of Hong Kong. Lying in the middle of the territory's dense urban region, the harbour is the site of annual fireworks displays and its promenades are used as gathering places for tourists and residents.


Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island in the 1860s City of Victoria.jpg
Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island in the 1860s
HMS Tamar anchored off the naval dockyard in Victoria Harbour in 1905 HMS Tamar.jpg
HMS Tamar anchored off the naval dockyard in Victoria Harbour in 1905
View from the Sky100 Vista del Puerto de Victoria desde Sky100, Hong Kong, 2013-08-09, DD 10.JPG
View from the Sky100

The first reference to what is now called Victoria Harbour is found in Zheng He's sailing maps of the China coast, dated c.1425, which appear in the Wubei Zhi (A Treatise on Armament Technology), a comprehensive 17th-century military book. While the harbour was charted in later maps, the first map depicting it in detail is an 1810 marine chart [1] prepared for the East India Company by Daniel Ross and Philip Maughan, lieutenants of the Bombay Marine. [2]

Zheng He Chinese mariner, and diplomat

Zheng He was a Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat, fleet admiral, and court eunuch during China's early Ming dynasty. He was originally born as Ma He in a Muslim family, and later adopted the conferred surname Zheng from Emperor Yongle. Zheng commanded expeditionary treasure voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. His larger ships allegedly carried hundreds of sailors on four tiers of decks and may have stretched 120 meters or more in length, but these claims have been disputed.

<i>Wubei Zhi</i> military book from china

The Wubei Zhi, also commonly known by its Japanese translated name Bubishi, is the most comprehensive military book in Chinese history. It was compiled in 1621 by Mao Yuanyi, an officer of waterborne troops in the Ming Dynasty. The Wubei Zhi contains 240 volumes, 10405 pages, and more than 200,000 Chinese characters, which makes it the longest book in Chinese history regarding military affairs.

East India Company 16th through 19th-century British trading company

The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) or the British East India Company, was an English and later British joint-stock company. It was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with Mughal India and the East Indies, and later with Qing China. The company ended up seizing control over large parts of the Indian subcontinent, colonised parts of Southeast Asia, and colonised Hong Kong after a war with Qing China.

Some of the first recreational activities to take place in the harbour were water competitions such as swimming and water polo in the 1850s, undertaken by members of Hong Kong's first sports club, the Victoria Recreation Club. [3]

Water polo ballgame-team sport played in water by teams competing to put the ball into the opponents goal

Water polo is a competitive team sport played in the water between two teams. The game consists of four quarters in which the two teams attempt to score goals by throwing the ball into the opposing team's goal. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins the match. Each team is made up of six field players and one goalkeeper. Except for the goalkeeper, players participate in both offensive and defensive roles. Water polo is typically played in an all-deep pool meaning that players cannot touch the bottom.

During the Taiping Rebellion, armed rebels paraded the streets of Hong Kong. On 21 December 1854, the Hong Kong police arrested several armed rebels who were about to attack Kowloon City. On 23 January 1855, a fleet of Taiping war boats was on the verge of a naval battle against Chinese imperial war boats defending the harbour. The Chinese defenders were ordered away by the British colonial authorities. These incidents caused rising tension that would eventually lead to the Arrow War. [4] The harbour was originally called "Hong Kong Harbour", but was later renamed as "Victoria Harbour", to assure shelter for the British fleet under Queen Victoria. [5]

Taiping Rebellion Rebellion in Qing dynasty China

The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion or civil war in China that was waged from 1850 to 1864 between the established Manchu-led Qing dynasty and the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.

Kowloon City Neighbourhood in Kowloon, Hong Kong

Kowloon City is an area in Kowloon, Hong Kong. It is administratively part of Kowloon City District.

Junk (ship) Type of boat

A junk is a type of ancient Chinese sailing ship that is still in use today. Junks were used as seagoing vessels as early as the 2nd century AD and developed rapidly during the Song dynasty (960–1279). They continued to evolve in the later dynasties, and were used throughout Asia for extensive ocean voyages. They were found, and in lesser numbers are still found, throughout South-East Asia and India, but primarily in China. Found more broadly today is a growing number of modern recreational junk-rigged sailboats.

The subject of pollution came to the fore in the 1970s with the rapid growth of the manufacturing sector. The water club races were stopped in 1973 due to pollution in the harbour, [3] a year after the former RMS Queen Elizabeth burned and sank at the Tsing Yi island anchorage. [6] [7] [8] Studies also showed excessive nitrogen input from discharges of the Pearl River Delta into the harbour for decades. [9]

After completion of the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation Feasibility Study in 1989, the Land Development Policy Committee endorsed a concept for gradual implementation of this additional reclamation. It consists of three district development cells separated by parks, namely, Central, Tamar and Exhibition.

The latest proposed reclamation, extending along the waterfront from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay, faced public opposition, as the harbour has become a pivotal location to Hongkongers in general. Activists have denounced the government's actions as destructive not only to the natural environment, but also to what is widely considered as one of the most prized natural assets of the territory. NGOs, including the Society for Protection of the Harbour, were formed to resist further attempts to reduce the size of the waterbody, with its chairman, Christine Loh, quoted as saying that the harbour " a precious national asset and we must preserve it for future generations. I believe an insightful and visionary chief executive would support our stance and work with us to protect the harbour". [10] Reclamation work also led to the demolition of Queen's Pier and Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, structures of historic significance, to massive public opposition.


Satellite view of Victoria Harbour in the 2000s HongKong.png
Satellite view of Victoria Harbour in the 2000s
Victoria Harbour seen westward from Central Plaza, with the shores of Hong Kong Island at the left and Kowloon at the right. International Commerce Centre & International Finance Centre 201007.jpg
Victoria Harbour seen westward from Central Plaza, with the shores of Hong Kong Island at the left and Kowloon at the right.

Victoria Harbour covered an area of about 41.88 km2 (16.17 sq mi) in 2004. The eastern boundary is generally considered to be the line formed between the westernmost extremity of Siu Chau Wan (小酒灣) and A Kung Ngam. The western boundary is generally considered to consist of a line drawn from the westernmost point of Hong Kong Island to the westernmost point of Green Island, thence a straight line drawn from the westernmost point of Green Island to the southeastern-most point of Tsing Yi, thence along the eastern and northern coastal lines of Tsing Yi to its westernmost extremity, and thence a straight line drawn true north towards the mainland. [11]

There are several islands within the harbour:

Due to land reclamation, the following are former islands that are now connected to adjacent lands or larger islands:


Hong Kong's old airport, Kai Tak, was located in Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport 1971.jpg
Hong Kong's old airport, Kai Tak, was located in Victoria Harbour.

Victoria Harbour is known for its panoramic night view and skyline, particularly in the direction towards Hong Kong Island where the skyline of skyscrapers is superimposed over the ridges behind. Among the best places to view the harbour are the Peak Tower atop Victoria Peak, or from the piazza at the Cultural Centre or the promenade of Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side. Rides on the Star Ferry, including the route between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, are another way to view the harbour and cityscape.

As the natural centre of the territory, the harbour has played host to many major public shows, including the annual fireworks displays on the second night of the Lunar New Year. These shows are popular with tourists and locals alike, and the display is usually telecast on local television. To enhance the popularity of the harbour as a sightseeing location, the government introduced a show dubbed A Symphony of Lights .

Also recently opened was the Avenue of Stars , built along the promenade outside the New World Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. Modeled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it honours the most illustrious people the Hong Kong film industry has produced over the past decades.

By the end of November every year, the outer walls of buildings in the central business districts on both sides of the harbours are dressed with Christmas-related decorations, and replaced with Lunar New Year-related ones by January.

Hong Kong at night.jpg
Nighttime panoramic view of Hong Kong Island from the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui

Port facilities

Hong Kong Ocean Terminal in December 2008 Ship-Star-Cruises-Star-Pisces-Hong-Kong-Dec-2008-02.JPG
Hong Kong Ocean Terminal in December 2008

Victoria Harbour is home to most of the port facilities of Hong Kong, making Hong Kong amongst the world's busiest. An average of 220,000 ships visit the harbour each year, including both oceangoing vessels and river vessels, for both goods and passengers. The Kwai Chung Container Terminals in the western part of the harbour is the main container handling facility, operating round the clock. Some 19.8 million containers (measured in TEUs) were handled by the region in 2016. [12] Some 400 container ships serve Hong Kong weekly, connecting to over 500 destinations around the world.

For many years until 2004, Hong Kong handled the most containers TEUs but slipped to sixth place on declining volumes by 2016. [12]


Meridian Star of the Star Ferry crossing Victoria Harbour Hkstarferry.JPG
Meridian Star of the Star Ferry crossing Victoria Harbour
The ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth caught fire and capsized in Victoria Harbour in 1972. Seawise University wreck.jpg
The ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth caught fire and capsized in Victoria Harbour in 1972.

There is no bridge crossing the harbour, but there are three cross-harbour road tunnels: Cross Harbour Tunnel (opened 1972), Eastern Harbour Crossing (1989), and Western Harbour Crossing (1997). The three tunnels act as important linkages between the Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

Three Mass Transit Railway routes also run under the Harbour. They are namely:

A fourth railway route will soon also pass under the harbour as part of the Sha Tin to Central Link. It will be served by the North-South Corridor, connecting Hung Hom to Exhibition and Admiralty stations.

The Star Ferry has been crossing the harbour since the late 19th century. The operated ferry routes today are: Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui, the Wan Chai/Central to Hung Hom services closing in 2011 for lack of patronage. Other regular ferry services also operate in the harbour.

The Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Company used to operate numerous cross-harbour routes between various piers of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Many of the routes are now operated by First Ferry. Some of the piers no longer exist because of reclamation projects, or many of the routes became unprofitable. Currently, the company continues to operate vehicular ferry services for vehicles carrying dangerous goods that are prohibited within tunnel crossings.

For international passenger traffic and traffic to mainland China and Macau, there are two ferry terminals, namely Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal and Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, and a terminal for cruises, the Ocean Terminal. Another cruise terminal (Kai Tak Cruise Terminal) has recently been opened.

See also

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Central, Hong Kong central business district in Hong Kong

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Tsing Yi island in Hong Kong

Tsing Yi, sometimes referred to as Tsing Yi Island, is an island in the urban area of Hong Kong, to the northwest of Hong Kong Island and south of Tsuen Wan. With an area of 10.69 km², the island has extended drastically by reclamation along almost all its natural shore and the annexation of Nga Ying Chau (牙鷹洲) and Chau Tsai. Three major bays or harbours, Tsing Yi Lagoon, Mun Tsai Tong and Tsing Yi Bay (青衣灣) in the northeast, have been completely reclaimed for new towns.

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The Star Ferry is a passenger ferry service operator and tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Its principal routes carry passengers across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island, and Kowloon. The service is operated by the Star Ferry Company, which was founded in 1888 as the Kowloon Ferry Company, and adopted its present name in 1898.

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  1. Marine Chart Archived 13 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine prepared for the East India Company by Captain Daniel Ross and Lieutenant Philip Maughan of the Bombay Marine.
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