The1950s marked an early stage of development for Wah Kwong as well as the Hong Kong shipping industry and saw a 9-fold increase in Hong Kong-owned tonnage as compared to the previous decade. It was in this era that, under the leadership and vision of Mr. T.Y. Chao, Wah Kwong became one of the 11 founding companies to sign the Articles of Association, the key document that laid the foundation for the establishment of the association, now consisting of around 200 members. It is particularly meaningful to Hong Kong’s shipping industry as a whole for initiating such an association laid a solid foundation for promoting common interests of shipowners and serving the maritime community in Hong Kong.
In 1957, our founder Mr. T.Y. Chao, one of the earliest entrepreneurs to embark on a shipping business in Hong Kong, led a group of shipowners to visit Chiang Kaishek, then leader of Taiwan.
1997 was a year of significance for Hong Kong as it marked the return of its sovereignty to China. For the same reason, concerns arose regarding which flags Hong Kong vessels should fly when entering Taiwan ports and vice versa. Mr. George Chao, then Chairman of HKSOA, was entrusted by the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits to lead a delegation to Taipei to negotiate with Taiwan representative, Taiwan Strait Exchange Foundation on the flag issue.
From April 1997, Hong Kong and Taiwan started the negotiation process and held two meetings, the first on May 2 in Hong Kong and the second on May 24 in Taipei. On the second meeting, which was only 2 months’ time from the beginning, concerns were successfully resolved and agreement was reached. In the meeting, Mr. Chao signed the HKSAR and Taiwan Shipping Accord with Chang Liang-Jen, Vice Secretary-General of Taiwan Strait Exchange Foundation.
The year 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the HKSOA with Ms. Sabrina Chao being the Chairman, 20 years after her father and our late president, Mr. George Chao. During her chairmanship in 2015-17, her efforts to engage the government and lobby for great support for the maritime sector has led to greater governmental recognition and new policies for the industry.
In particular, Sabrina was a key member of the working group of the Financial Services Development Council that produced the maritime leasing report in May 2018 which received positive response by the Government, as shown in the Chief Executive’s Policy Address in October that the Government will be “using tax measures to foster ship leasing business in Hong Kong... with a view to enhancing Hong Kong’s position as a ship leasing centre in the Asia- Pacific region”, and urging the Transport and Housing Bureau to work with relevant governmental bodies to “encourage more commercial principals of the maritime industry to base their operations in Hong Kong”.
Sabrina also strives for closer liaison with our Beijing comrades for Hong Kong to make good use of cooperation opportunities offered in mainland China. In September 2017, she re-introduced the association’s annual visit to Beijing and led a delegation of Hong Kong shipowners to visit important ministries and shipping industry leaders.