Founded in 1952 by T.Y.Chao, Wah Kwong Maritime is Hong Kong’s largest independent tanker owner.
|Sabrina Chao, vice chairman of
Wah Kwong Maritime
In those days of postwar industrial growth in nearby Japan, Wah Kwong’s emergent fleet of ships was contracted on long-term time charters, primarily to Japanese companies. The use of such charters reduced the Hong Kong shipper’s exposure to market volatility, and is a methodology that Wah Kwong maintains to this day.
T.Y. Chao’s sons, Frank and George, took over the company in the 1990s, and today the Chao family is one of the most prominent of Hong Kong’s shipping dynasties. The company remains a regional leader in its field and maintains a fleet of modern bulk carriers, tankers, and LPG carriers.
Wah Kwong’s day-to-day operations have now passed on to George Chao’s eldest daughter, Sabrina. In 2002, she became the third generation of the Chao family to enter the business, and in 2007 she was appointed vice chairman of Wah Kwong Maritime.
“I have been working side-byside with my father over the past 10 years. I think shipping is a dynamic and also enjoyable business,” Sabrina Chao says.
In the current economic downturn worldwide, she would like to internally strengthen ship management while continuously upgrading the company’s technology. Most importantly, Chao wants to build and maintain her company’s long-standing relationship with Japan.
Wah Kwong was one of the first Hong Kong shipbuilders to construct ships in Japan back in the 1960s.
“We still have very good relationships with the Japanese shipyards and trading houses. Our ties are very strong, and we hope that one day we can go back to Japan to build ships again,” Chao remarks. “The vessels we built in Japan always worked out very well for us.”
A key factor in the company’s success over the years, through boom times and the current global turmoil, has been its innovative spirit driven by sound decisionmaking.
“Being a private company, we make decisions much quicker than other entities in the industry,” says Chao. Wah Kwong has thus been quicker to adapt to changing world shipping conditions and better able to navigate the volatile course of the modern globalized economy.
This year will mark Wah Kwong’s 60th anniversary. Chao remarks: “This anniversary is more about giving back to the community, which nurtures us, and I hope it will stir interest for people outside the industry.”