Jebshun Shipping (捷順船務)
York Lo: Jebshun Shipping (捷順船務)
Left: Lam Choon-cheong (A Collection of epitaphs of Chinese elites in HK); Middle: advertising calendar of Jebshun from the 1950s (eBay Singapore); Right: Victoria Drummond, the first woman marine engineer in Britain, who worked for Jebshun from 1959 to 1962.
In the article about the Kowloon Flour Mills, it was mentioned that Andrew Lam Kam-kwan (林錦堃) of Jebshun Shipping was one of directors of the mill. From its establishment in 1931 by Andrew’s father Lam Choon-cheong (林俊璋, 1900-1966) until its closure in 1972, Jebshun was one of the leading shipping companies in Hong Kong with a focus on routes between HK/Swatow and Southeast Asian cities such as Singapore, Penang and Bangkok. In fact, when the HK Shipowners Association (which has mostly been dominated by Shanghainese owners) was formed in 1957 with 11 shipping companies, the Chiuchow native Andrew Lam was elected as its inaugural president.
A native of Chao-an (潮安) in the Chiuchow region, Lam Choon-cheong graduated from Tung Wen Institute (厦门同文书院, founded in 1898 by the US consul and 6 wealthy Chinese merchants) in Amoy where he learned English and the basics of math, science and business. The demand for shipping between HK and Swatow and Thailand has always been high given immigration and the Thai rice trade and the first Chinese shipping company to capitalize on that route was Chino-Siam Steam Navigation (華暹輪船), which was founded in 1908 by a group of Thai Chinese leaders. After the Canton and HK strikes of 1925, Lam teamed up with two Chiuchow merchants, Lam Chi-fung (林子豐, 1892-1971, later best known for founding Ka Wah Bank and Baptist College) and Chan Chi-chiu (陳子昭), to form Chui Yick Steamship Co (聚益輪船) in 1926 in HK which ran routes between HK/Swatow and Thailand and Singapore. Lam Chi-fung and Chan were partners in the firm of Sze Wai & Co, which was involved in the Vietnamese coal trade. In 1931, C.C. Lam split from Chui Yick and formed Jebshun which also operated in the same routes with an initial focus of importing rice from Thailand. Business was successful with the support of fellow Chiuchow natives although operations were suspended during the War. Little information is available about Jebshun’s activities in the 1940s.
Aside from Jebshun, Lam also incorporated three shipping companies with names based on his own name or that of his sons in the 1950s: Choon Kee Navigation (俊記航業) in 1952, Kam Kee Navigation Co Ltd (錦記航業) and Cheong Kee Navigation (璋記航業) in 1955. In 1957, Jebshun Shipping was formally incorporated in HK with offices at 48 Bonham Strand West and registered capital of HK$500,000. The three subscribers at incorporation were Lam Choon-cheong (94 Blue Pool Rd), Andrew Lam (17 Cooper Rd) and Choy Yung-yee (蔡勇義, living in 40 Bonham Rd). Choy as managing director had traveled on behalf of Jebshun to Southeast Asia to meet with travel agents and outside of Jebshun was also an executive director of Kwong On Bank. The firm’s agent in London was Lambert Brothers.
Jebshun executive Choy Yong-yee at the airport before his trip to Japan in 1970. Left to right: Lo To-tak from Lo’s Mee Kwong (see article), Kwong On Bank chairman Leung Kwai-yee, Choy Yong-yee, Dao Heng Bank GM Tang Pang-yuen, Kwong On Bank vice chairman Leung Chik-fun, Cheung Chi-ping. (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1970-5-19)
In the 1950s, Jebshun expanded its fleet (all starting with the word “Shun”) through acquisitions, most of them from European-owned shipping firms. In 1950, Jebshun via Cheong Kee acquired the 30 years old, 3372 tons “Mausang” (茂生) from Jardines’ Indo China Navigation Co and renamed it “Shun Lee”. They sold it to Wallem in 1952 which renamed it Hippopotamus but bought it back in 1955 via Shun Kee and operated it until 1960 when it was wrecked by a hurricane on Pratas Island.
In 1951, Jebshun (through Winly Navigation Co Ltd, incorporated in 1950 and dissolved in 1957) acquired the 1717 tons freighter “Edendale” (正偉健, built in 1897) from Heap Eng Moh Steamship Co of Singapore (majority owned by the Javanese sugar king Oei Tiong Ham and where Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather worked) and serviced the HK-Swatow route. In January 1955, the 58 years old “Edendale” which flew the British flag was sunk by Nationalist fighter planes in Swatow with 1000 crates of oranges on board that was destined for Singapore for Chinese New Year. The ship’s captain Leslie Church and 61 crew members were rescued and returned to HK by land. The next month, Jebshun acquired the 5400 tons, 40 years old “Fionia” from the Danish trading firm of East Asiatic Co and renamed it “Hoi Hung”.
In 1956, Jebshun bought the 1000 tons “Tong Song” via Cheong Kee from Straits Steamship of Singapore and renamed “Shun Fung” to replace “Edendale” in the HK-Swatow route. In 1957, Jebshun bought the 2592 tons “Baltavia” from United Baltic Corp and renamed the vessel “Shun Shing” (broken up in 1964) and acquired the Norwegian vessel Skiensfjord (built 1922) for £165,000 and renamed it “Shun Hing” (broken up in 1959).
In 1959, Jebshun through Kam Kee acquired its biggest ship – the 10070 tons “Grelrosa” (built in 1942) from Cardigan Shipping of the UK and renamed it “Shun Tai” (順泰). For the chief engineer of “Shun Tai”, Jebshun managed to hire Victoria Drummond, the first woman marine engineer in Britain with over three decades of experience and was awarded a MBE for her courage during the War. A fire took place on “Shun Tai” en route from Bangkok to HK in 1960 but Drummond managed to contain it. Jebshun also bought “City of Cardiff” in 1959 for £77000 from the Ellerman Lines and renamed it “Shun Wing” and the ship grabbed headlines when it went missing in the North Sea for a week in December.
In 1964, it acquired the 7542 tons “Garthdale” (built in 1944 as Frumenton for R. Chapman & Sons of Newcastle) from Esgarth and renamed the ship “Jeb Lee” (it was scrapped in 1970).
Shun Tai, which was acquired in 1959 and
Article about the fire on “Shun Tai” in 1960 (Kung Sheung Daily News, 1960-3-3)
In 1966, Lam Choon-cheong died at the age of 66. Although he had never served as chairman or vice chairman of the Chiu Chow Chamber of Commerce, he along with China Motor Bus chief Ngan Shing-kwan were appointed permanent honorary chairman. He had three wives (last name Kwok, Yung and Siu) who gave him 9 sons and 10 daughters. Andrew Lam succeeded his father as head of the firm while his younger brother Wilson K.H. Lam (林錦河) managed the HK business and another brother K.Y. Lam (林錦鏞) managed the Malaysian business.
Andrew Lam (second from left) and Chou Hau-wai (first from right) with representatives of the West German circus in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-9-14)
Under the second generation, Jebshun continued to expand. In 1968, Jebshun bought 8926 tons “Bradford City” from Vercharmian Steamship and renamed it “Shun Wah”. In 1969, Jebshun acquired 6523 tons “Eastern Star” (東星號, built in 1951) from Jardines and renamed it “Precious Diamond” and acquired 6957 tons “Chanda” from British Indian Navigation and renamed it “Precious Pearl”.
Shun Wah (shipnostalgia.com)
However, a string of unfortunate losses also took place during this time. In March 1969, “Shun Tai” sunk as a result of a collision south of Singapore. In July 1969, a major fire destroyed “Precious Diamond” and injured dozens of workers while it was being refitted in Kowloon City. In October 1970, Jebshun acquired 7273 tons “Chandpara” from British Indian Navigation and renamed it “Precious Ruby”. Less than half a year late in March 1971, “Precious Ruby” ran aground near Dairen en route from Chinwangtao to Chittagong, Bangladesh delivering coal.
In December 1971, Jebshun filed for voluntary liquidation which was approved the next month. The remaining 40 employees lost their jobs and three of its remaining vessels – “Shun Wah”,“Precious Pearl” and “Shun Wing” were sold for scrap.
- 香港工商日報, 1950-10-03
- 大公報, 1956-1-31, 1959-10-23, 1972-01-08
- WKYP, 1971-12-12
- The Straits Times, 21 January 1955, 10 February 1955
- A Collection of epitaphs of Chinese elites in Hong Kong – HK Island, 2012, pp 254-255
This article was first posted on 6th July 2018.
Related Indhhk articles:
- Kowloon Flour Mills (九龍麵粉廠)
Our Index shows many articles about Hong Kong shipyards and about individual ships with a Hong Kong connection especially during World War Two.