Twenty Five years (25 years)
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, Members, Ladies, & Gentlemen.
We are tonight celebrating, a quarter of a centenary, of the founding of the Hong
Kong Branch of - The Nautical Institute.
I will not bore you with a catalogue of personalities and events but paint with a
broad brush a picture of the branch as a whole.
But! where did it all start:
Twenty Five years ago in Hong Kong there was a great number Nautical Societies.
The Institute of Navigation, The Institute of Sea Transport, The Institute of Naval
Architects, and The Institute of Marine Engineers. On a more social scale was the
Conway, Wuster & Pangbourn which included the Warsash Old Boys Association.
But, there was nothing in Hong Kong that provided a Professional Institute
specifically, for and by, Seagoing Officers.
The Nautical Institute in the United Kingdom was founded a few years before the
Hong Kong Branch and for the same very reasons. Mariners got their heads
together and thus eventually, the seeds the routs of the Nautical Institute was
The concept of the Nautical Institute is to develop a channel to give and receive -
relevant and up to date topical information - specifically directed at, and by,
qualified Ship Captains and their Officers. By this means, make them aware of new
developments, and as a means, to foster and develop improvements in standards
I am proud to say that from its inception, to the present day, our Hong Kong
Branch – is, and has been vibrant, active, and a leading light in the Marine Industry
in Hong Kong and overseas.
We had a small hitch prior, during and after the transfer of sovereignty; while we
all in Hong Kong became adjusted. But the Hong Kong Branch, like all good
seafarers, however, quickly found their sea legs again and the Branch, vigorously
rebounded by becoming more vibrant and stronger than ever.
It was during this transfer period that our bi-annual seminar were founded, (1996-
1997) which was self-funding and also made a small profit. The Branch in this way
and for the first time did not have to rely on calling in subscriptions and donations
from HQ but was enable to carry on without subvention from London for the next
two years. That is we were also able therefore to afford to book and pay for lecture
locations, with small chow and cocktails for visitors. In addition, we were able to
put money by for the next seminar and contribute donations to Charity.
These Seminars are a tribute to the versatility and competence of seafarers in
general as they are competently organised and put together by the branch
committee - without outside professional assistance. They are, and have been all a
phenomenal success and has put the branch also in a healthy financial position.
The early days of the branch I can remember, as yesterday. Meetings were held at
the Mariner Department Offices and the Polytechnic Lecturers Bar. It is from this
beginning that the Branch was set up.
The NI membership in HK consisted of, but not exclusively of, Marine Department
Officers, Polytechnic Lecturers, Pilots , Marine Police Officers, Marine Surveyors,
Seagoing Ship’s Captains and Officers from Shipmanagement Companies.
I was at that time a seagoing member, and was sort of co-opted as a committee
member, in transit as it were, which bring me to the subject of co-opting.
From time immemorial CO-OPTING was, and still is, a regular feature of the branch.
It goes like this. The branch is short of a committee member or office bearer for
some reason or other, usually retirement overseas or having been Shanghaied.
Our press gang then comes into action and low and behold we have a new
committee members. Our Charming Lady members are particularly good at this
job. The by-law is of course satisfied by putting them on the ballot paper and
voting is done by a show of hands. After two or three pint, no one objects of
Through the years the branch has arranged various activities, such as; lectures,
outings and other functions, mostly always with a nautical flavour.
Branch members contributed & still do: to suggested topics, the giving of lectures
and providing lecturers. These lectures, then, as now, covered a range of current
and interesting topics. More importantly, they were mostly of a practical nature
and always provoked discussion - often very searching – and at least on one
occasion the lecturer ended up with a sore throat.
In the early days these meetings quite often took place in the Poly Bar, there was
a, blackboard and easel. After fortifying ourselves with pints of beer the topic
under review was expounded - with various degrees of eloquence - depending on
the quantity of pints imbibed.
The topics; in those early days was directed at the Collision Rules, the use of; or
rather misused of Radar, the formation of the New Hong Kong Registry, Pilotage,
Changes in Registration and Surveys of Local Craft were all hot topics. The pints
and members quite often were smothered with chalk dust as the more enthusiastic
of the lecturers became more and more animated.
Various visits and outing also have been organised over the years. The Marine
Police Headquarters, old, new and the latest one. These included trips on their
latest craft. The traffic management HQ, the Poly radar simulator and to add
variety the Kadoori Farm, the Special Porpoises, and the Light House at Waglan
It must be said with deep appreciation that Swires over the years has been have
been most generous in providing their launch for various site seeing trips to the
outlying Islands. There were trips to Junk Bay and on another when our younger
member tried their hand at Waterskiing, with no great success I must say.
Having no fixed abode, the NI over the years has enjoyed the hospitality of various
venues. I can recall, as previously mentioned, the Polytechnic Bar and The Marine
Department Offices. But we also squatted on The Police Officer’s Club, The Yacht
Club, The Hong Kong Volunteers Mess and the Mariners Club to name a few. When
selecting these locations it was important that a bar be located near at hand on the
premises to supply pints.
The AGM’s were always good fun and the importance of the occasion also required
large amounts of beer. It was sometimes held at Zetland Hall, where again there
is a Bar – which runs along the length of the room.
Two or three times we held a wine tasting at the Police Officer’s Recreation Club. I
recall, that some member had a lady friend or wife who was engaged in
sponsorship with Watson’s or someone like that – so rows of bottles appeared at
the back of the room for the tasting – after the business was over and after a
precleansing ale or two was downed - our members set about the business of ‘tasting’
– however as they, were more attuned to knocking back pints than thimble full of
wine – they proceeded with some aplomb to sip and discuss the merits in staccato
voices. But as , the idea of spitting out and taking pieces of bread ‘too cleans the
pallet’, was aberrant to their sensibilities; after one or two attempts at gentility -
down the hatch it went. After a bit, all the wines, tasted great and the Lady Friend
made a roaring trade in all types of bottled wine. Many bottles ended up in prizes
in raffles-I had the last drop, which was used for cooking, only the other day.
I remember on another occasion having it in the Ladies Recreation Club: The
décor, was a symphony in pink with pink curtains, pink table cloths, and even pink
serviettes. The demand for pints was treated with frosty disdain by the Matron in
Charge followed by the tart response - ‘we could possibly manage some bottle
bear’- after one case of Sam Mig - there was no more. I don’t remember ever going
Another great time was at the Annual Dinner. This significant occasion, I think
either the first or second year, it was held at the World Trade Centre. Now the cost
of the dinner included so many bottles of wine, I seem to remember two per table.
But the cost of any extra, was exorbitant, and they did not serve pints or even
bottled bear, which was a pity. However, our members, enterprising as usual,
solved the problem. At diner you had to be careful where you put your feet and not
kick them out, otherwise there could be discerned a, CHINK, CHINK, CHINK. Now
when everyone, got up to dance, someone dived under the table, and by slight-of
—hand filled up the glasses. We had one or two expert at this game.
Many successful Dinners were held at the Officer’s Mess at HMS Taimore. I can
still remember one member, (who I will not mention), full of the joy after too many
pints, playing peek-a-boo behind the potted plants, while the Chairman made his
speech. There was always a good times had by all - no matter how large or small
The Branch from the outset had a Newsletter, firstly typed out on A4 and
mimeograp, then later editions were printed out in glossy paper. I discovered a
few of these ranging from №8, July 1988 to №51, December 1994 and in these
heirloom are some interesting articles concerning the developments of the Marine
Industry in Hong Kong.
The Branch entered the electronic age very early on, and into the age of Internet.
The advent of the Internet made the Newsletter redundant and our web page was
I this respect I would like to make to take a quotation from The Annual General
Meeting Report №8 – July 1988.
“OUR GUEST OF HONOUR WAS CAPTAIN PETER DALRYMPLE-SMITH RN who is
CAPIC HONG KONG, he gave a very entertaining speech after dinner which of
course had a very nautical flavour. He opened with a story about communications
in the days of the first RN Captain in Hong Kong in about 1841 which if he had a
question to ask Whitehall had to send it by ship and if he was lucky if he got a reply
in six months. Nowadays, he went on to say, he could get the question to the
correct person in Whitehall in under an hour, but it can still take six month to get a
I can add to this, in stating that now it only takes seconds to e-mail our HQ in
London but also takes six months or there a bouts, to respond.
As I would be incorrect of me to singled out anyone in particular, I will there close
by making this tribute - by asking you join with me in extending our united deep
appreciation to all our past and present Chairmen, the past and present Committee
Members, who now and over the years have devoted so much of their free time to
created and make the branch grow into an efficient and seaworthy ship.
I therefore now call on you all - to rise and raise your glasses:
The Toast is to;
THE NAUTICAL INSTITUTE HONG KONG BRANCH