The Chao Family
The Chao family represent one of the most prominent of Hong Kong's shipping dynasties.
The founder of Wah Kwong, T.Y. Chao, graduated from Soochow University, Shanghai in 1934 with a law degree. Instead of pursuing a legal career, he became a comprador in a reputed trading firm in Shanghai. T.Y. Chao’s first venture into shipping comprised a 50 per cent ownership of the 6,000dwt cargo ship ‘KWOK SING’ which transported coal on the Chinese coast.
In 1948, the outbreak of the civil war in China saw T.Y. Chao leave Shanghai accompanied by his family aboard the ‘KWOK SING’ and sail for Hong Kong. Encouraged by his initial foray into shipping, T.Y. established a new shipping company with two other partners which thrived and in 1952 allowed the partners to amicably divide the business and T.Y. then established Wah Kwong.
Mr. T.Y. Chao - the founder of the Group
The President of Wah Kwong,
George Chao (1940-2016)
In the mid 1960’s, T.Y. Chao’s eldest son Frank and youngest son George joined the company. Frank’s background with a degree in marine engineering saw him focus on the technical aspects of the business, whilst George focused on the commercial and financial aspects and building up the strong relationships the company maintains today with their business partners around the world.
Whilst Frank Chao retired in 1999, George continued at the helm of the company, maintaining the company’s prominence in the Hong Kong shipping community. George led Wah Kwong to be one of the early supporters of China’s shipbuilding industry, starting to order vessels in Chinese shipyards from early 1990's and pioneering many of China’s emerging shipyards become the world leaders they are today.
As chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association from 1995 to 1997, George led successful negotiations regarding the trading of Hong Kong flag ships to Taiwan after the handover. He was also an avid supporter of the training and education of seafarers through his chairmanship of the Maritime Services Training Board and the Port Welfare Committee, looking forward the future of the broader Hong Kong maritime community.
George’s commitments and contributions to the maritime industry were recognised with the receipt of the Lloyds List Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 as well as the Seatrade Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
In 2002, Wah Kwong welcomed the third generation of the Chao family into the business with Sabrina Chao, George's eldest daughter, joining the company and being appointed Chairman of the Group in 2013. Two years later, Sabrina assumed the role of Chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, making her the first women to take this position.
George’s passing away in 2016 saw the Hong Kong shipping industry lose one of the most glamorous players for decades. However, as a company which maintains the values and stability brought by an ongoing family commitment, together with a modern management structure and clear vision of the future, Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings will continue to benefit from the direct involvement of the Chao family for years to come.
Sabrina Chao, who was appointed
Chairman in 2013
Hing Chao, Deputy Chairman
Mr. Hing Chao, son of the late Mr. George Chao, is the Deputy Chairman of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings and an Executive Committee member of Hong Kong Shipowners Association. After graduating from Durham University, Mr. Chao was placed in a number of shipping companies to gain experience and develop a broad understanding of the industry. Since 2000 he has pursued a cross-sector career in business, culture and heritage, philanthropy and education. In 2015 he joined Wah Kwong’s Board of Directors, having occupied various positions in the company across the real estate and shipping sectors, and having established a successful career in cultural heritage. He is also the founder of Hong Kong Culture Festival, and the author of multiple books.