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From a little fish village to an international financial centre, Hong Kong has experienced a lot of changes. We would like to invite you to look back to the history of Hong Kong, the story of our home.
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《The History of Hong Kong III》 Hong Kong's Maritime Industry and the World


《The History of Hong Kong III》 Hong Kong's Maritime Industry and the World

In Hong Kong, vessels come and go. In the past hundred years or so, Hong Kong has put on a million faces, having evolved from a small fishing village into a prosperous entrepot, and then into the current state as a global financial centre. Throughout the growth of the local economy, shipping has grown along as well. Once the major economic backbone of Hong Kong, the shipping industry has adjusted itself time and again to adapt to the ever-changing world. Today, shipping in Hong Kong is no more as prosperous as it was, and yet the harbour that has nurtured Hong Kong over a century is still dazzling and thriving.

The strategic geographical location of Hong Kong and the natural enormous water depth of its harbour: these were the favourable factors for the development of the shipping industry in Hong Kong. The complex historical background of the city further created endless business opportunities that launched the most glorious days of the shipping industry in Hong Kong.

The 19th century, when the Western powers rushed into the East for development, saw an ever-increasing maritime exchange between the East and the West. As Hong Kong was ceded to Britain after the First Opium War, the “free port” policy adopted in Hong Kong marked the first important step towards success for the local shipping industry. Foreign firms came to Hong Kong one after another to set up their branches and headquarters here, not only bringing capital, talent and technology to the city, but also establishing the city as the bridge between the East and the West, further strengthening the growth of Hong Kong’s shipping industry.

As early as at the city’s establishment as a British colony, Jardine Matheson became the pioneer of the local shipping industry and the leading figure in the development of the industry. The Hong Kong Canton and Macao Steamboat Company, owned by Douglas Lapraik, also became the most important shipping company within the Pearl River region. Lapraik even took the lead to move the Whampoa Dock from Shanghai to Hong Kong and set up a firm; after numerous acquisitions and mergers, Whampoa became the largest dry dock in Hong Kong, marking the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s role in the building and repairing of vessels. Hong Kong’s shipping industry was further rejuvenated with the emergence of the Swire Group, as its Taikoo Dockyard became the major competitor alongside Whampoa Dock, resulting in an enhanced level of technology within the industry and the strengthening of the industry as a whole. At the same time, development of the dock business also paved the way for local infrastructure, regional development and improvement of livelihood and welfare of local residents.

The shipping industry has played an important role in the development of Hong Kong; it is also well-documented in Hong Kong’s history. That having been said, tiny stories about the industry are still lying around in the dust waiting to be collected into history. The lighthouse standing upright on Wenwei Zhou in the South China Sea, constantly brushed against by sea breeze, also has a few stories to tell about the shipping industry of Hong Kong.
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