The maritime sector is steeped in tradition. Throughout history the industry has played a crucial role in global economic growth and international trading relations. In the 1950s when the seeds of Hong Kong’s and Japan’s economic miracles were sown, T.Y. Chao established Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings Ltd. in 1952.
“Shipping is a global business,” explained Hing Chao, the executive chairman and a third-generation custodian of the company.
“From the very beginning when my grandfather started the company, we had to understand our strengths and our role within the Hong Kong shipping industry in relation to international economic developments, particularly those taking place in Japan in the 1950s and on through to the 1970s.”
Wah Kwong’s contacts in Japan played a defining role in the growth of the company.
“In terms of new building activities Wah Kwong has undertaken over the years, the first Japanese vessel we took delivery of was back in 1958. Over the last 70 years, we have built over 140 ships in Japan,” said Chao.
Wah Kwong maintains close relationships with Japanese shipyards and trading houses, as well as major shipping companies and charterers.
“We are also developing new relationships with banks and other financial institutions in Japan,” explained Chao, “including with Iyo Bank which we are very pleased with. We are eager to work with more Japanese banks as well as leasing companies as we move forward.”
Since taking on the role of chairman in 2019, Chao has created a more diversified company.
“The development of our asset-management business enables us to provide technical management services to ship owners and offer fully integrated management services, including joint venture partnerships with our clients.”
Sustainability is at the forefront of Chao’s long-term vision for Wah Kwong. Last year, the company signed an agreement with CLP Innovation Enterprises, a Hong Kong energy company promoting carbon offsetting solutions and raising awareness of “decarbonization” in the shipping industry.
“Wah Kwong is probably the first shipping company in Hong Kong to have a strategic plan in place to offset our carbon emissions,” Chao said.
“The shipping industry faces a monumental challenge to decarbonize. While the ultimate goal is to employ a fleet of ships with zero-carbon modes of propulsion, we also believe we should engage with partners to mitigate the impact of the shipping industry on the environment during this important transitional period through carbon offset strategies.”
Anchored by family values and a desire to create a unified Asian shipping community, Chao concluded that other players in the region should take a fresh look at the situation.
“I encourage our Japanese friends and partners to look closely at our treasured relationship and view it in a more multilayered and innovative manner. Through Hong Kong, China and Japan can collaborate to create a stronger Asian voice within the regional and global shipping sector.”