HK and Whampoa Dockyard – what happened to its famous Hammerhead Crane?

Hugh Farmer: New information in red.

In 1932 Earle’s Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Hull, UK, was acquired by National Shipbuilders Security and dismantled, with the yard’s fitting-out crane being sold off to the Kowloon (HK &  Whampoa) Dockyard in Hong Kong.

Tymon Mellor: In November 1937, the Whampoa docks at Hung Hom were connected to the KCR by a 1.090ft siding down Baker Street. The line would provide access to the new 100T tower crane that was to be completed in 1938. As reported in the KCR 1937 Report for the year; “The crane is located alongside water which is deep enough to accommodate the largest ocean going ships. It is expected that the additional revenue will accrue to the Railway both in freight and special siding charges.”

The crane was a landmark for many years both for seafarers entering the harbour and for those living in Hong Kong.

HF: This image has been extracted from the 1940 British Pathe film, Civilians Evacuate Hong Kong, which you can see in full on Youtube.

Hammerhead Crane from Pathe News film Civilians Evacuate HK 1940

Despite attempts to blow it up both by the Japanese during the Battle of HK in 1941 and by allied forces during the occupation, it survived almost unscathed apart from slight damage to the crane’s tip from a bomb splinter.

HK & Whampoa Hammerhead crane

circa 1967 note location of the crane in the bottom right hand corner

Plan of the Kowloon Docks circa 1967
note location of the crane in the bottom right hand corner

In 1973 HK & Whampoa and Taikoo Dockyards combined to become Hong Kong United Dockyards (HUD).

And in 1980 HK & Whampoa Dockyard closed and moved operations to Tsing Yi island.

But what happened to  the Hammerhead crane – a powerful symbol of HK’s once impressive shipbuilding industry?

This article was first posted on 22nd May 2015.


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  • Bob Tatz

    I am very interested in HWD as I served my engineering apprenticeship there from 1947 to 1951. I am in the process of writing my memoirs of that period and would like permission to use these pictures, and anymore that may be available.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Bob Tatz

    • Hello Bob

      Good to hear from you. The two images in this article are a) from Pathe films who you would probably have to approach yourself for permission to use and b) source unknown.

      If you are interested in other HK & Whampoa Dockyard images on the site perhaps you could contact me directly by the email address provided on the website.

      Good luck with your memoirs – if you could provide information about your time at HWD which I could post on the site I would be delighted to hear from you.

      Best wishes
      Hugh Farmer

  • Dear Sir/Madam, I would like to have information from you about the period between 6 May 1958 and 20 June 1958. That time you salvaged the dutch m.s Tjibantjet ( Royal Interocean Lines/ Java Congsi) from the slopes of Devil’s peak Junkbay HKG.
    The ship was beached during that period on the Junkbay shores in order to inspect, patch and prepare the ship for the coming trip to your dockyard a couple of miles away. I have a booklet published by your yard concerning the repair operations, what’s missing is any photographs made during the beaching period.If you have any of those photos, could I have some copies,
    The m.s Tjibantjet stranded 0n 22 September 1957, during Typhoon Gloria. I was 5th engineer on that ship and stayed 3 months on the ship when laying on the rocks. Adriaan L G Rommen ( 19 Aug 1936)

  • Ian Wolfe

    The hammerhead tower crane that appeared in this article photos is different from the one attached to –
    Are they not the same crane ?

    • John Martin

      The Hammerhead crane in this article is at Whampoa (or Kowloon) dockyard. The crane at Taikoo was different. Swires Taikoo dockyard was on Victoria (Hong Kong) Island.

  • Klaus Liphard

    Some more information can be found on Gwulo (

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