Sai Hing Steam Ship Company – smuggling, pirates and bombs…

Stephen Davies: Further information about the Sainam and her sister ship the Nanning.

I now know that the owner, Sai Hing Steam Ship Co., was originally a Chinese firm offering Canton to Macao river ferry services, formed as a syndicate to buy four ex-Swire ships (see SCMP, 9th November 1917, p.11) – the ships were the Nanning, Sainam, San Ui and Lin Tan, all purchased in 1917.

The San Ui (built Kwang Hip Leung, Hong Kong, 1904, 322 tons, 130’, 29 NHP, screw) was sold on to the Fook On Steam Ship Co. maybe with some intermediaries since she became the Yee On in 1933, Tin Ting in 1934 before ending up as the Tin Sang (17/10/1933 sank at Macao after colliding with breakwater – salved; 2/9/1937 anchors failed during typhoon at Hong Kong, hit and sank steamer Yuet On, and then blown ashore and demolished; 1947 wreck finally removed.

Kock Ning, Sai Hing SS Company, ship arrested, SCMP 30.4.1926 SDavies

SCMP 30th April 1926

The Lin Tan was sold to Lau Wa Ping in 1927 who renamed it Chung On (it was scuttled in 1941). And there was a 400 ton Kock Ning (possibly Kong Ning, 1000 tons, built Lau Sum Kee, HK, 1918), arrested in 1926 for opium smuggling (sold to the West River Transportation & Trading Co. by 1930).

The Sai Hing SS Co had a ship called Chung On in 1921 that had also been arrested for opium smuggling (SCMP, 23rd May, 1921, p.8) and another (possibly the Chung Hing) fined HK$3000 for the same problem (SCMP, 2nd May 1921, p.8).

According to Wikiswire the firm relocated to Guangzhou in 1941. However the Lloyd’s Register entries have the Sainam and Nanning home ported in Guangzhou (Canton) as of 1935, though for the five years before that they are simply reported as being Chinese flagged, without a home port. That suggests the Sai Hing SS Co had a foot in both places probably from the start (as suggested above), and must have seen some advantages to the Chinese flag, which was relatively unusual in the 1930s.

The Sainam went badly aground in June 1907 and wasn’t reflated until three weeks later and on 20th April 1923 she and the Nanning collided in a squall (SCMP, 20th April 1923, p.12). She is said to have still been around until 1948 when she was broken up.

The Nanning was cited in a Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs document in 1933 (Preventive Secretary’s Printed Note No.8, 7th April 1933, Edwin A Pritchard, Preventive Secretary) as having been rummaged in 1932 and affording an example of how crew created smuggling ‘hides’ around the ship:

Nanning SS 'hide' extract in Chief Compradore's cabin SDavies unknown source

Interesting that it was the Chief Comprador’s cabin!

That tipped me to have a look and both ships were in Lloyd’s Register right the way through the 1920s and 1930s to the end of WW2, suggesting that they successfully kept going as river vessels at least to after the beginning of WW2. Lloyd’s has no data on when or if they were sunk, but they certainly disappear from the list promptly in 1945. They are both always listed as ‘paddle’ vessels. Given local conditions, they did very well to last 40+ years.

Sai Hing SS Company - Canton office attacked, SCMP 20.6.1927 SDavies

SCMP 20th June 1927

That Harry Long was right to be afeared (and that the Sai Hing SS Co was NOT HK based by the 1920s) there is this story from the SCMP.

There’s a 1919 story of the Nanning being pirated too, not long after she’s been bought by the Sai Hing SS Co (SCMP, 29 July, 1919, p.6)

The Sainam piracy evoked a huge coverage in the press that ran on for weeks.

Related Indhhk articles:
  1. The sternwheeler Sainam – pirated en route to Samshui 1906 – built by Geo. Fenwick, Hong Kong 1900
  2. Hong Kong launch Kwong Mo and lighter Tin Ming – pirated 1922 en route to Samshui
  3. A brief history of the Hong Kong lighter Tin Ming – pirated 1922
  4. Harry Long – employment with Kung Lee Steamship Co and HK and Yaumatei Ferry Co
  5. Kung Lee Steam Ship Company Ltd – Harry Long’s personal experience

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