European Settlements in the Far East – Part Two, Shipyards in HK around 1900

Vaudine England has kindly sent a link to what she describes as a typically 1900-era directory of the European empires in the east. Of great interest to us is a rather neat summary of the industries and shipyards in Hong Kong at that time. The author was D Warren Smith.(1)

I thought I would divide these summaries into several parts. Second up – Shipyards in Hong Kong. To aid reader’s searches I have retyped the relevant pages.

Thanks to SCT for proofreading my retyping.

In our article, Early HK Shipyards and Graving docks, I note “In early colonial Hong Kong shipwrights used traditional skills to build junks and sampans and later acquired new skills by building western style ships. A considerable change came with the construction of dock facilities to build and repair iron steamships.”

John Lamont completed HK’s first dry dock in Aberdeen in 1860. The Hongkong and Whampoa Dock Company’s dry dock started operations at Hunghom in 1868. Cosmopolitan Dock was finished at Tai Kok Tsui in 1876. By 1907 the Kowloon Peninsula contained several shipbuilding and repair yards. And in 1910 Butterfield & Swire’s Taikoo Dockyard was completed at Quarry Bay.”

Hongkong Daily Press 5th January 1864

Stephen Davies has researched the many small shipyards which existed along the Wanchai waterfront from shortly after the colony of Hong Kong came into being up until the early years of the 20th century. See our article, 19th Century Wanchai Shipyards – Messrs. George Fenwick & Co Ltd.

An image of the Nanning 1 and Sainam which were of similar design, Fenwick built 1900 for the HK, Macau and Canton Steamboat Co.

Docks mentioned in Warren Smith’s article are the:
Hongkong and Whampoa Dock [aka Kowloon Dock]
Cosmopolitan Dock
Aberdeen: Hope Dock
Lamont Dock

We have articles about most of these yards/docks mentioned which I have linked under Related Indhhk articles below. However, we do not have detailed accounts of the construction or early history of any of them and these would be of great interest if you can provide anything.

European Settlements In The Far East D Warren Smith 1900 Cover Page Vaudine England

European Settlements In The Far East Detail P199a D Warren Smith 1900 Vaudine England

There is excellent dock accommodation. The Hongkong  and Whampoa Dock Company, Limited, have three extensive establishments, one at Kowloon, one at Tai Kok Tsui, and the third at Aberdeen on the south side of the island. The establishments of this company are fitted with all the best and latest appliances for engineering and carpenter’s work, and the largest vessel in H.M.’s Navy has been received into the No.1 Dock at Kowloon. The docks and slips are of the following dimensions:- Kowloon-No.1 (Admiralty) Dock – 576 feet in length, 86 feet in breadth at entrance at top and 70 feet at bottom, and 30 feet depth of water over sill at ordinary spring tides. No. 2 Dock – Length on keel blocks, 371 feet; breadth at entrance, 74 feet; depth of water over sill at ordinary spring tides, 18 feet 6 inches. No.3 Dock breadth at entrance, 64 feet; depth of water over sill at ordinary spring tides, 16 feet.

Hongkong & Whampoa Dock HK Daily Press 4th January 1864

HK Daily Press 4th January 1864

The Kowloon and Cosmopolitan Docks are in close proximity to the shipping in port, and are well sheltered on all sides. The approaches to the Docks are perfectly safe, and the immediate vicinity affords capital anchorage.

The Docks are substantially built throughout with granite. Powerful lifting shears with steam purchase at Kowloon and Cosmopolitan Docks stand on a solid granite sea-wall, alongside which vessels can lie and take in or out boilers, guns and other heavy weights. The shears at Kowloon are capable of lifting 70 tons, and the depth of water alongside is 24 feet at low tides.

There are other establishments at which shipbuilding and foundry work is carried on, and some good-sized steamers have been launched in the Colony. Her Majesty’s Naval Yard likewise contains machine-sheds and fitting-shops on a large scale, and repairs can be effected to the machinery of the British men-of-war with great expedition. A large extension of the Naval Yard has been decided upon.


  1. European settlements in the Far East; China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Malay States, Siam, Netherlands, India, Borneo, the Philippines, etc., D. Warres Smith, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London, 1900

This article was first posted on 31st October 2018.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. European Settlements in the Far East – Part One, Industries in HK around 1900
  2. European Settlements in the Far East – Part Three, The Peak District and the Peak Tram in HK around 1900
  3. Early HK Shipyards and Graving docks
  4. 19th Century Wanchai Shipyards – Messrs. George Fenwick & Co Ltd
  5. Douglas Lapraik – watchmaker, shipowner and co-founder of the Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Company
  6. Sir Thomas Sutherland – first chairman of Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard
  7. Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard – glass plate photographic collection
  8. Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd – ships built, wrecked during WW2
  9. Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock – WW2 bombing – the aftermath
  10. Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company – several ships built by Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard
  11. Shell Oil tankers built by Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard
  12. Cosmopolitan Dock – unusual double dock feature
  13. Cosmopolitan Docks during the Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945
  14. Aberdeen Docks – 1874 Typhoon damage
  15. SS Alaska – temporary casualty of 1874 Typhoon at Aberdeen Dock
  16. Aberdeen Dock (Lamma Shipyard) during the Japanese occupation 1942-1945

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