Administrative / Biographical History

The idea for a dockyard in Hong Kong to service, repair, adapt and build vessels for the China Navigation Company [CNCo] was first put forward when the Sugar Refinery was established at Quarry Bay and surplus land remained on that site. The suggestion was made several times during the late Nineteenth Century but was opposed by John Samuel Swire as uneconomic and too far outside their usual interests. The need, however, for adequate, reliable and easily available overhaul facilities in the East increased and the Dockyard was eventually begun in 1900-1901 at Quarry Bay. It was registered in Britain with John Swire & Sons appointed as London Managers, Butterfield & Swire as Eastern Managers and Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company as Expert Advisers. The first ship for CNCo was built by 1910, but it was sixteen years before there was a profit on the working account and twenty before a dividend was declared. The Dockyard's chief competitor was the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company from whom the new firm faced considerable hostility for many years until a working agreement was reached between them in 1913. In 1940 the British company went into voluntary liquidation so that a new one could be opened and registered in Hong Kong and the Dockyard continued to expand after the Second World War despite the destruction caused by the Japanese during their occupation from 1942-1945.

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Copyright is owned by John Swire & Sons, Ltd, 59 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ

Related Material

Related MaterialThe early development of the Company is covered in the main JSSI correspondence series, see JSSI 1/13-15 and JSSI 2/9-11. There are no general correspondence files for the Twentieth Century but the accounting side up to the liquidation of the British Company in 1940 is well covered and many of the legal papers connected to the formation of the firm survive (JSSVI 5). Additional material on the early years, particularly the financial aspects, can be found connected with the legal disputes which arose over the settlement of Edwin Mackintosh's estate, JSSI 8/8. A little material on the Twentieth Century can be found scattered through the files of letters from B&S Hong Kong whose responsibility the Dockyard's general development chiefly was (JSSII 2).