Hing Chao, heir to Hong Kong shipping empire Wah Kwong, brings the shipping industry to new heights

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Following in the footsteps of their grandfather, Wah Kwong Maritime Transport’s founder Chao Tsong-yea, Sabrina and Hing Chao are now leaders in the business that makes Hong Kong one of the most important international ports. In May 2019, Hing took over Sabrina’s position as the executive chairman of Wah Kwong, a third-generation Hong Kong shipping company founded in 1952. In May 2021, Sabrina accepted the presidency of Bimco, one of the largest shipping organisations in the world, representing 60 per cent of the world’s cargo fleet in more than 130 countries.


In 2001 their father, George Chao, invited the siblings to take part in an intensive one-year introduction to the shipping industry. While Sabrina looked at auditing, internal control, finance and legal functions—a more internal view of the company, in other words—Hing trained in the more outward-facing side of the business: commercial brokerage, facing clients, fixing cargo and shipbuilding. “It was intended that we would both come back to help out on different aspects of the company,” Sabrina says.


While Sabrina stayed in Wah Kwong and assumed chairmanship from 2013 until she stepped down in August 2019. Hing took his time to explore what he wanted in life after the “induction”. When their father passed away in 2016, Hing decided it was time to rejoin the family business. “Sabrina has been the best and also toughest mentor for me. From a very early stage, she taught me everything about shipping as quickly as possible so that I could get myself in position. She also taught me family values, things about my father, and how a lot of family values have become cemented into our corporate culture,” he says.


When they’re not focused on the shipping business, the siblings dedicate time to the arts, culture and education. Sabrina, an alumna of the British private school Charterhouse, secured the licence to open branches in Asia, first in Malaysia last year, with plans for the Greater Bay Area in the pipeline. Hing, who founded the annual Hong Kong Culture Festival to celebrate heritage and martial arts, will launch the Greater Bay Area Maritime Festival next year, where he will salute arts alongside the shipping industry.

(Photo: Affa Chan)

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Hing Chao has always been fascinated by Hong Kong’s kung fu cinema. He started practising martial arts when he was eight, and founded the Hong Kong International Kungfu Festival in 2009. 

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