We are pleased to relaunch Venture Forward after a hiatus of over two years. Much has happened during this period, both within Wah Kwong and the shipping industry. The tanker market has dropped off and picked up again, while the dry bulk market has finally and mercifully come out of a prolonged rut. On both fronts, there are tentative signs of a new cycle, though market sentiments remain fragile after such a long, drawn-out downward trek, and whispers of optimism are quickly hushed by the spectres of “tariffying” trade war and regulations. Being optimists, however, we have cautiously chosen “cycle” as the theme of this issue, to mark the beginning of a new period.
Certainly within Wah Kwong there is a strong sense of one cycle coming to an end and the beginning of a new one. In July 2016 our President Mr. George Chao passed away after a long battle with illness. His passing marked the end of a long and important chapter for our Company, where our late President had been at the helm for over thirty years and played an irreplaceable role since the early 1970s. At the same time, our Chairman Sabrina served as Chairman of Hong Kong Shipowners Association from end of 2015 to 2017.
In China it is believed that sixty years constitutes a major cycle, and it is with pride that we note the symmetry between the history of Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) with that of Wah Kwong. Our founder Mr. T.Y. Chao was one of 11 Hong Kong shipowners to co-found HKSOA in 1957. 40 years later, in 1997, during the critical period when Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred back to China, HKSOA was chaired by Mr. George Chao, who successfully negotiated the pressing flag issue surrounding Taiwanese ships entering Hong Kong port and vice versa. This cycle book-ended with Sabrina’s chairmanship, which continued the vision and policies set by Mr. George Chao and other previous chairmen, but also introduced reforms to reinvigorate and make the association more effective.
Embarking on a new cycle in 2018 we appointed Mr. David Palmer as our new CEO, while Mr. Hing Chao took up executive directorship within the company.
In terms of business development, while Wah Kwong continues its traditional role as tonnage-supplier, riding the wakes of change while disposing and acquiring assets, we have started to develop a parallel stream of “Wah Kwong Lite” to complement our investment activities. Under this strategy, we are looking to develop new asset-light businesses, including the provision of integrated management solutions to strategic partners who require support in new-building supervision, and / or operational, technical, and commercial management.
At this challenging but also exciting time, we are pleased to present Venture Forward to our friends and partners in a brand new format. The revamped newsletter is built around four main sections. In Business, we illustrate how our pillar departments function and adapt to the new “Wah Kwong Lite” strategy; in Heritage, we showcase our 66-year-old legacy which we take pride in, and how that legacy is preserved and continued. Connecting Business and Heritage is the feature story “Cycle of Change”, which continues these discussions and elaborates how Wah Kwong is adapting to the shipping industry’s changing conditions while remaining true to the founders’ vision and core values. Here, we also put the spotlight on our Chairman Ms. Sabrina Chao’s accomplishments during her term as Chairman of Hong Kong Shipowners Association 2015-2017. This occupies the second section.
Last but not least, we treasure the voice of our team members and thus usher in the Culture section which includes, in this issue, our people-building culture and a special interview with one of our captains who shares with us his safety philosophy and a life-saving story at sea. In 2018 we also organized the first-time-ever Wah Kwong Crew Photo Competition, which received overwhelming response from our crew. Their works, together with other interactive elements, such as our fleet details and latest business updates, can all be found on our updated website. It is our aim that every new year will begin with the newsletter.
For now, Wah Kwong will venture forth as it sails into a new cycle.