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Wah Kwong: Sabrina Chao’s first interview as chairman

Hong Kong: In her first interview since assuming the chairmanship of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings last week, Sabrina Chao warned that 2013 is likely to be the absolute nadir of shipping’s downturn.

“2013 will be the defining year,” Chao, 38, told Maritime CEO in our debut shipowner profile. “A lot of people won’t make it,” she added.

In a management shuffle last week, Sabrina took over from her father, George as chairman of the 60-year-old shipping line. Her father has become president. She has been running the day-to-day operations of the Hong Kong firm for the past couple of years as her father was taken ill.

She joined the family firm 11 years ago, following stints with Jardine Fleming and PricewaterhouseCoopers and completing her degree from Imperial College, London.

Do not expect too much to change at the company. Like father, like daughter, the plans are to remain conservative.

“We will stick with our long term business plan of being a provider of first class bulk shipping services to our customers,” said Chao. “We have always been cautious about counterparties and securing long term revenue streams. In the current environment, managing risk, enhancing our shipmanagement systems and positioning ourselves to take advantage of opportunities are key strategies.”

NEED TO KNOW: Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings

Celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, Wah Kwong can trace its roots to Shanghai. It is one of the founding members of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association. Currently owns either wholly or in partnership 28 ships, comprising four VLCCs and one panamax crude tanker, ten small pressurized LPG tankers, four capesize bulkers, four supramaxes, two post-panamax bulkers, a single panamax bulker and a pair of handysize bulkers. Orderbook is currently just a single VLCC on order at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding, due for delivery in June 2013. Sabrina Chao assumed chairmanship of the company last week, becoming the third generation of the Chao family to take the helm of the line. Former Clarksons broker Tim Huxley is ceo.

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