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Chapter 1.3
Birth of the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd and the Union Dock Company
Contributor: Ma Koon-yiu

Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd.

Douglas Lapraik bought the Whampoa Dock in Canton from Couper and set up the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd. (HKWDC) in 1863. When the Hope Dock began operation, the Lamont Property Limited was formed as a subsidiary company under the HKWDC. The whole Aberdeen Docks were in the hands of the HKWDC in 1864, which also owned a spar-yard in Wan Chai just next to Thomas Hunt & Co.[7] (Burrow Street and Mallory Street today).

Union Dock Company

In November 1864, the Union Dock Company (UDC), newly formed by the companies Dent’s and Hunt of Whampoa and Heard, bought from public auction a piece of land in a village called Hung Hom in Kowloon for the construction of a dockyard. The site formation works contract was signed on 21 April 1865 for the sum of $24,000. Subsequently, the granite dock works contract was signed on 17 July 1865 for the sum of $108,000, with a completion time of two years. The dimensions of the dock were 300 feet by 84 feet, with a water depth of 19 feet 6 inches at spring tides. Messrs Rawling, Medlen and Co was in charge of the works.

In January 1867, the UDC took over the Wan Chai shipyard from Thomas Hunt & Co. The dock in Hung Hom was completed in late July 1868, and received its first ship, the French barque Pactole, on 15 August 1868 in a low-key ceremony. The dock was known as the Kowloon Docks (where Whampoa Garden stands today) for almost a century.

The China Mail commented that the shipping market could not support two big dockyards and that there were only three alternatives, namely “amalgamation, the extinction of the one by the other, or the ruin of both in the style of financial Kilkenny cats.”[8]

The path to monopoly

Half a year later in early 1869, the HKWDC wrote to the UDC suggesting a uniform scale rate, but the UDC declined the suggestion. The correspondence was sent to the press, and as The China Mail had anticipated, the subject of merging was raised, for the first time. The matter dragged on until March 1870, when finally the two companies were amalgamated.


  • [7]
    Thomas Hunt & Co. was an American company which had a close relationship with the Whampoa docks in Guangzhou. It came to Hong Kong in 1857.
  • [8]
    The China Mail, 18 July 1868.
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