Japanese Tsunami 2011

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am


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Asia Society offers a costly handshake ... with an American

We see that the Asia Society is continuing its policy of gouging those who turn up at its events.

It's charging HK$3,800 for non-members and HK$3,000 for members to attend its annual gala ball. The Asia Society's role, according to its literature, is to educate the world about the countries and cultures of Asia. So you have to wonder why they have invited former US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin as a keynote speaker. He'll talk on 'Challenges to the US and Global Economies'.

If you're prepared to fork out HK$80,000 for a table of 12, then all of you get to attend the VIP reception, which presumably means getting to shake Rubin's hand and to chew the fat with Asia Society co-chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung, chairman of the Hang Lung Group. For HK$60,000, you get a table for 12, but only six can attend the VIP reception. For HK$40,000, only two out of the 12 can go to the reception.

The Asia Society is a non-profit organisation and says vaguely, as it always does when seeking to justify the high price of its events, that the proceeds from the event will contribute to supporting the Asia Society's 'mission of educating people about the countries and cultures of Asia and global issues that impact the region.'

In response to queries, the Asia Society said: 'The majority of our programmes are run on a break-even basis. For fund-raising events like this gala, all the proceeds raised after deducting the cost will contribute towards covering the [society's] operational costs.'

We maintain our view that it's become just another overpriced networking club.

Man who negotiated stormy waters

This story might strike a chord with anyone who's been tossed around and lost their balance while standing up trying to disembark from the Star Ferry or a junk in Central. Zhu Qianchun, a mainland Chinese captain with Pacific Basin Shipping, has won the title of Seafarer of the Year at a global awards event in London. He was chosen for exemplary seamanship and leadership during the Japanese tsunami and earthquake in March. Zhu captained the dry bulk cargo ship Port Pegasus, which was unloading bulk freight at Onahama, 179 kilometres from the epicentre of the quake.

Unfortunately, the long metal arm of a shore-side unloader was deep inside one of the ship's holds when the tsunami struck. Unable to manoeuvre away from the berth without ripping out the side of the vessel, Zhu and the crew battled 8-metre swells and extraordinary currents for 18 hours to keep the ship at berth. With no tugs, pilots, port control or dock workers, Zhu could only use the ship's steering and engine, often at full power, to fight the wild currents. The ship was saved and kept seaworthy without causing pollution.

Jan Rindbo, chief operating officer at Pacific Basin, said: 'Captain Zhu showed great leadership and skill on that devastating day, as well as tremendous maturity for a young man who had been promoted to captain only one month prior to the event.'

This is the second time the crew of the Port Pegasus has been recognised for their seafaring skills during the tsunami. In April, they, together with the crew of another Hong Kong registered ship, the Flanders Tenacity, received awards from the Marine Department for their exemplary seamanship. Captain Zhu, we salute you.

Europe's debt crisis 'like botox'

Katherine Garrett-Cox, chief executive of Alliance Trust, Britain's largest investment trust, is less than enthusiastic about the current investment environment. Her company had reduced its exposure to equities during the first half of the year and invested in higher yielding defensive stocks ready for a prolonged downturn, the Daily Telegraph reports. She was dismissive of Europe's efforts to solve its debt crisis, calling it 'economic cosmetic surgery' and warning there will be 'more pain' in coming months. 'It's a bit like botox,' she said. 'It looks good for a while but will eventually start to sag again.'

Cheap car that's as good as gold

The world's cheapest car - the Tato Nano - has been turned into what is probably one of the most expensive. The car has been reworked with 80kg of 22 carat gold, 15kg of silver and assorted gemstones. The car normally sells for about HK$15,900, but the gold-plated version is worth around 220 million rupees (HK$35 million). But it's not for sale. Tata wants to use the car for marketing and to show off the work of Indian craftsmen. The Nano's initial success faded after two caught fire. Hopefully the gold version will avoid this fate.