"Miracles Sometimes Cease: Shipbreaking in Hong Kong from War's End through Boomtime"
Time & Location
06 Aug 2022, 14:30 – 16:00
Hong Kong Maritime Museum
About the Event
“Miracles Sometimes Cease: Shipbreaking in Hong Kong from War's End through Boomtime"
The story of shipbreaking in Hong Kong is an excellent example of what the Maritime Miracle exhibition is about.
Necessity opens up an opportunity. Propitious circumstances allow initiative and hard work to exploit the opportunity. Circumstances change. New necessities and new opportunities emerge. A once prosperous earlier business pathway closes.
In 1945-1947 there was a necessity to clear Victoria Harbour and get it back to work. There city had to be rebuilt and then kept expanding to cope with Hong Kong’s rapidly increasing population and industrial development. That meant steel, the demand for which boomed. In the post-war world steel was in short supply. That sunken ships were made of steel created an opportunity for shipbreakers. The demand allowed fast development of the shipbreaking industry in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Then things changed. Rivalry from Taiwan. Shortage of land. Alternative, less hazardous and better paid work. And more. By the late 1970s Hong Kong’s shipbreaking industry was in swift decline.
Necessity. Opportunity. Booming success. Change. Start over.
Dr. Stephen Davies lived in Hong Kong on and off from 1947 until 2022. He was baptised on the quarterdeck of the battleship HMS Rodney in 1945, and has been hooked on maritime history ever since. He taught at the University of Hong Kong until 2022, when he retired to Britain. His most recent book is Transport to Another Word: HMS Tamar and the Sinews of Empire, published by City University of Hong Kong Press in May this year.