Danish Vessel Clara Maersk Brings Vietnam Refugees to Hong Kong During Royals Visit May 4, 1975
Submitted by lawhar on Sat, 2022-01-08 01:21
I noticed the reader question about which public market Queen Elizabeth visited in Hong Kong in 1975.
It reminds me of another event that occurred during that visit.
A small South Vietnamese ship with over 3000 Vietnamese fleeing Saigon after the fall of South Vietnam at the end of April, 1975 lost power and was on the verge of sinking when a Danish containership picked them up in the South China Sea. The Clara Maersk headed for Hong Kong. The usual passenger berth at Ocean Terminal was not available to discharge the refugees because of activities around the Royals visit.
I was serving as Port Manager of the Sea-Land Service container terminal in Kwai Chung and was asked by the Hong Kong Marine Department if our berth could be made available to handle the vessel and discharge the refugees.
I replied of course and the Clara Maersk, came alongside Sunday evening May 4, 1975 at 1900 hours.
The memory of the cheer that the Vietnamese cried out as the vessel approached gives me goose bumps to this day.
Maersk crew members carried children down the gangway first followed by a stream of refugees. It took until 0300 hours the next morning to get everyone off. They were transported in buses to the new Princess Margaret Hospital that was opened early to accommodate them. A company of British troops stood by out of sight in our nearby container freight station but were not needed as the entire process was orderly and without incident.
Just before midnight the Hong Kong Governor, Sir Murray MacLehose, came to the berth after the evening's events with Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. We were introduced and spoke for a few minutes about the evening, his time as British Ambassador to South Vietnam and my years with Sea-Land in Vietnam prior to my Hong Kong posting.
It was an evening I will never forget.
The following week I received the attached notes of thanks from the Governor and from Dave O'Brien of the Royal Hong Kong Police.