Teh Hu Steamship (德和輪船公司)
York Lo: Teh Hu Steamship (德和輪船公司)
Left: T.Y. Wu at an international shipping convention in Taipei in 1971 (National Repository of Cultural Heritage, Taiwan); Right: “New Teh Hu” on slip at the Taikoo Dockyard (presumably in the 1960s)
Since 1949, Shanghainese shipowners had dominated the shipping industry in Hong Kong but while most are familiar with Y.K. Pao of Worldwide Shipping, C.Y. Tung of Orient Overseas, T.Y. Chao of Wah Kwong and Frank Tsao of IMC, a number of other Shanghainese shipowners also played key roles in the development of the HK shipping industry. One of these firms is Teh Hu Steamship Co whose founder T.Y. Wu (吳仲亞, 1903-1979) was a leading figure in the industry and today, Teh Hu Cargocean remains one of HK’s leading operator of bulk carriers (aka bulkers) carrying grain, iron ore and coal around the world.
A native of Wuchin (武進) in Kiangsu province, Teh Hu founder T.Y. Wu was a chemistry graduate of the Soochow Industrial School (蘇州工業專門學校, predecessor of the Suzhou Vocational University). According to the biography of Wu’s one-time business partner James SC Chao of Foremost Shipping (the father of current US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao), T.Y. Wu worked for the Standard Oil Co in China before founding Teh Hu. He first established Teh Hu Co (德和公司) in Shanghai which was involved in the import and export of machinery, metals and other miscellaneous goods. When Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese, Wu moved to Kunming in Yunnan province where he established a machinery factory (also named Teh Hu) in the winter of 1939.
In 1948, Wu established Teh Hu Steamship in Shanghai and acquired a steel screw steamer “Macao” (1027 tons, built in 1911 as Sanda) and renamed it “Teh Hu” like his firm. The ship operated for 15 more years until 1963 when it was scrapped. In late 1962, Teh Hu acquired the 4310 tons “Sletholm” (formerly built as “Tessa Dan” in Denmark in 1950, damaged by fire while moored in Shanghai in November of 1962), repaired it and resumed service as “New Teh Hu” in February 1963. The new vessel caught on fire in July 1963 and was repaired once again and resumed service in 1964. Teh Hu operated “New Teh Hu” until 1973 when it sold the ship to Trans Safety Shipping (ship was demolished in Thailand in 1978)
As the Communists took over Shanghai in 1949, Wu relocated to HK as his base of operations and also invested heavily in Taiwan, the most prominent investment being South East Soda Manufacturing (東南碱業, aka Sesoda), the largest producer of potassium sulfate (SOP, used primarily in fertilizers) on the island founded in 1957 by Ningbonese native S.S. Chu (朱繡山, 1919-2005). Wu as a major shareholder served as Sesoda’s chairman.
T.Y. Wu with family and friends at Kai Tak Airport before his European trip (WKYP, 1961-5-9)
In the 1950s, Teh Hu established Panamanian entities such as Compania Naviera Victoria Neptuno SA (海皇星航業) and Compania Naviera Pearl SA to acquire ships.
In 1957, Teh Hu via Neptuno acquired “Liberal” from Wallem and renamed it “Amira”, They operated the ship until 1961 when it was broken up in HK. In 1961, Teh Hu acquired 3952 tons steamship “Cycle” (built 1939) from Australian Steamships and renamed it “Amita”. They operated the vessel until 1972 when it was scrapped in Kaohsiung. By 1961, Teh Hu had 13 ships including the latest one which was ordered from a West German shipyard and its carriers were running routes between HK, Taiwan, Korea and Southeast Asia.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, Teh Hu acquired 4 ships from Union Shipping of New Zealand – “Wainui” (1633 tons, built 1930) in 1958 which was renamed “Amonea”(ship unfortunately was wrecked in 1960 in the Sulu Sea west of Borneo); “Kakapo” (2498 tons, built 1936) in 1960 which was renamed “Teh Ping” in 1964 (broken up in Taiwan in 1970), “Waipori” (4282 tons, built 1938) in 1965 which was renamed “Pacific Mariner” and “Waitemata” (7364 tons, built 1946) in 1967 which was renamed “Amelia”.
In 1963, Teh Hu bought “Hoperidge” from Hopemount Shipping of Newcastle and renamed it “Bethlehem”. The ship sank 30 miles off Singapore after collision with a Japanese tanker “Showa Maru” in 1969. In 1965, Teh Hu acquired the 7345 tons “Eftychia” from Greece (originally built as “Riverton” in the UK in 1943 and attacked by German U-boats in 1945) and renamed it “Boaz”. The ship was broken up in Kaohsiung in 1969. It bought “Beaverglen” (originally built for Canadian Pacific in 1946) via Pearl in April 1965 but unfortunately the ship was wrecked in Holland in November of the same year.
By the mid-1960s, T.Y. Wu was keen on expanding into the US. A devout Christian, Wu was introduced to a young marine captain by the name of James S.C. Chao (趙錫成, 1927-) through a mutual friend who was an elder of a Long Island church in 1963. The next year (1964), Chao formed Foremost Maritime (福茂) in New York with the support of 5 shipowners from HK with Chao receiving 20% equity as the manager. With the financial support of Wu, Chao was able to purchase new ships from Taiwan to transport agricultural products for the US Department of Agriculture to Vietnam – an extremely lucrative business which paid off the acquisition cost of a ship in two trips. By 1971, Foremost had 8 bulk carriers and was transporting supplies for the UN to war-torn Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War that year. However, a series of setbacks reduced the Foremost’s fleet to one vessel and the 5 HK shipowners who were less optimistic about the prospects of the firm decided to sell their stakes to Chao for 5 dollars in 1972.
Teh Hu’s “Amelia” (shipspotting.com)
In 1979, T.Y. Wu died. He and his wife S.Y. Shen (沈淑英, 1908-1970) had 2 sons – Wu Chung-hua (吳忠華) and Brian Wu Chung-dan (吳忠旦) and a godson Chung-Li Wu (吳中禮). Both of Wu’s sons earned Ph.D. in electrical engineering – C.H. from Rensselaer Polytechnic in 1962 and Bruce from University of Notre Dame in 1965. Upon graduation, Bruce worked as assistant professor at HKU from 1965-67 and also joined Teh-Hu where he rose to become its senior vice president and also served as a director of Sesoda from 1995-1994. Chung-li Wu who graduated from Chu Hai College has also served as director and vice chairman of Sesoda.
Left: Article about CH Wu receiving his PhD from RPI in 1962 (WKYP, 1962-6-10); Right: Bruce C.D. Wu (right) giving a talk on shipbuilding at the Rotary Club of HK West in 1969 while club president Alex Lam Shi-chun of Ka Wah Bank ate his lunch (WKYP, 1969-11-8)
In 1974, Teh Hu merged with Cargocean Shipping (海運航業, which owned at two vessels – “Hsin Pioneer” and “Hsin Mei”), a shipping firm controlled by the Yeh family of Hsin Chong Construction (see article) to form Teh-Hu Cargocean Management (德和海運管理). Under the management of chairman C. K. Liu (劉仲嘉, 1912-2004) and managing director Kenneth K. W. Lo (盧強華), Teh-Hu Cargocean grew to a fleet of 19 carriers with total tonnage of over 900,000 by 1985.
Starting in the 1970s, Teh-Hu started buying bigger and newer ships from shipyards in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China such as the 17520 tons “Virtuous” shown below which was built in Taiwan in 1971 and operated it until its sale in 1985. Other vessels under Teh-Hu’s management which all have names ending with “ous” include “Victorious”, “Spacious”, “Industrious”, “Beauteous” (30810 tons, 1969), “Ambitious” (15957 tons), “Bounteous” (9734 tons), “Jade Glorious” (35827 tons, built 1972 in Nagoya, sold 1987), “Diamond Glorious” (78021 tons, 1971) “Prestigious” (23202 tons), “Righteous” (1976, 14873 tons), “Duteous” (8767 tons, built in 1977, sold 1988), “Precious” (65419 tons, 1979 – built by Hyundai and first order for Korea by HK shipowner), “Ingenious” (1982, 14560 tons), “Aberous” (1995), “Courteous” (16551 tons), “Mightious” (104750 tons), “Prosperous” (92941 tons, built in Korea in 2011), “Harmonious” (2014, 206,000 DWT – largest Teh-Hu ever ordered) and “Courageous” (94455 tons ,built in Shanghai in 2016). In 1994, it launched the 107413 tons bulk carrier “Luise Oldendorff” in partnership with Egon Oldendorff.
Kenneth Lo served as chairman of the HK Shipowners Association from 1986-87 and succeeded Liu as chairman of Teh-Hu Cargocean after Liu’s death in December 2004. From 1988 onwards, Teh-Hu has focused on capsize type of vessels and maintained ownership of 5-6 ships at any given time and since 2000, management of most Teh Hu’s ships are handled by Anglo-Eastern Ship Management (中英船務代理, incorporated in 1974).
Teh Hu’s “Virtuous”
The Story of James SC Chao: Fearless Against the Wind 逆風無畏, 天下雜誌出版, 2016
This article was first posted on 9th July 2018.
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