After World War II, he joined the seagoing staff of a local shipping company as third officer. His subsequent career was spent with various local companies and he progressed smoothly through the ranks to 2nd officer, chief officer and eventually to captain.
In 1961, Dr. Chang and some friends jointly established a shipping company and, having helped this company to develop, he decided to branch out on his own, establishing Evergreen Marine Corporation in September 1, 1968 with just one secondhand 15,000 ton vessel, Central Trust.
Over the next four years, Chang painstakingly built his fleet up to twelve, running them empty when necessary to convince his customers his services were both as regular as clockwork and as reliable as the sunset. Within a year, he had expanded to the Middle East. Within three, Chang was dispatching Evergreen ships to the Caribbean.
The founder of Evergreen displayed innovation and far-sightedness that led not only to him building up the world's largest fleet, but also one of the world's most technologically-advanced; one that permits him to set the pace that others can only emulate.
Back in 1975, Chang realized that containerisation was the way forward. He built four advanced S-type container ships and launched his US east coast service. Fifteen months later, he added the western seaboard of the United States to his network, just in time when Americans were developing a real taste for the economical, well-made products fast pouring out of Asian factories.
By 1984, he started his most ambitious service yet- two 80-day round-the-world services, one circling the globe in an easterly direction, the other westward. Departing every 10 days, the 20 G-type container ships he employed had a capacity of 2,728 containers each and could travel at a speed of 20.5 knots.
Even Chang's rivals acknowledge his skill, not only in predicting market trends but also in ensuring the appropriate infrastructure and technology.
The name "Evergreen" stands for life and vitality in Chinese culture. Green also happens to be Chang's favorite colour. All his containers are painted green, female employees once wear green jackets and even his headquarters in Taipei is covered with green tiles. Evergreen employees speak almost reverently of Chang, praising his wisdom, intelligence, modesty and egalitarian spirit.
Chang alone sets the rigorous standards for all new employees. Fresh graduates are hired directly from Taiwan's universities. Applications far outstrips jobs available but the lucky few are well rewarded for their talents, commitment and dedication. The company prefers to nurture its own talent and promotes from within, thus encouraging its employees to perform and continue with the company.
As the company has grown, Chang is no longer able to make all the decisions alone as he did in the early days and recognizes the need to delegate responsibility. He has chosen his top executives well and has the confidence to allow them considerable freedom in handling Evergreen's international operations.
It comes, perhaps, as no surprise that a man who has shown an uncanny flair for far-sightedness throughout his career, would realize tha Evergreen was approaching its limits for seaborne expansion. So Chang took a step back and began looking around for new opportunities, first on land and then in the skies.
"We are diversifying into international business," said Chang, "including hotels, resorts, leisure businesses and the service industry-- all non-polluting industries."
The Evergreen Group has expanded beyond the shipping industry to encompass operations in heavy industrial development, air transport, hotels and resorts services. This international conglomerate based on the integrated development of services on land, sea and air has built an enviable reputation for outstanding performance.
The country's first private airline, EVA Airways Corporation, was established on March 8, 1989 and on July 1991, formally inaugurated its first flight and began a new era of national commercial aviation.
EVA Airway's main principles are those of "flight safety and speed, warm and complete service, effective and innovative operation".The company has become recognized as one of the world's best and safest airlines. From its inception, EVA Airways unstintingly invested in flight safety, quality of service and related software equipment, business management and personnel training. The forethought in planning these goals has made EVA one of the world's most attractive commercial airlines.
In line with the development of its airline industry, Evergreen has become the first Taiwanese enterprise to gain a worldwide foothold in the hotel industry, capitalizing on the group's 20 years of experience in international shipping and unique universal vision.
Hearkening back to the ancient Roman custom of awarding wreaths of laurel to heroes and poets, the Evergreen Group names its hotels "Laurel" to symbolize the fine design, extensive facilities and personalized service. For business or pleasure, people can enjoy Evergreen's luxurious and warm service all over the world.
The Evergreen Group, with over 27,000 employees and more than 220 offices/agents worldwide, now comprises about 30 major corporations worldwide, 3 of which are listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.
More than thirty years of unflagging efforts have driven the Evergreen Group's evolution into a prominent international conglomerate linking interests in sea, land and air transportation with a common commitment to high-quality service. The Evergreen Group is not, however, content to rest on its laurels. Inspired by the far-sighted business ideals of Chang and an unflinching commitment to service, the Evergreen Group will continue to break new boundaries in the pursuit of excellence.
"My entire existence is seemingly intertwined with the seas. The Japanese adage, 'living for the seas', is a fitting portrayal of my life, the vicissitudes of which, much like the billowing swells, are inseparable from the high and mighty seas."
With this, Dr. Chang Yung-fa, best known as the indomitable owner of the Evergreen container line and EVA Air, begins the story of his life.
From the humble position of hatch-keeper, Chang worked and studied his way up to the rank of captain. His great love for ships and the oceans planted the first entrepreneurial seed in him- he longed to take the helm of his very own vessel.
Before long, his dream of owning his own ship became a reality when he set up New Taiwan Marine and later on, Central Marine. But while his partners were content with their regional success, Chang wanted to take on the world with new and better ships and ride the next big wave in shipping - containerisation.
Chang left Central Marine and, with a single dilapidated ship, started Evergreen. By then, Chang had developed a reputation as a tough and reliable businessman. He soon began to take on the world, fighting the cutthroat practices of monopolistic freight conferences for freedom of the shipping routes. With Evergreen the biggest container fleet in the world, Chang ran the gauntlet of political chaos in Taiwan to start the island's first private airline - EVA Air.
But Chang's story is more than just a tycoon's account of his company's journey to success. It is a nautical chart of management theory drawn from arduous practice. A compass of ethical principle that business- or life- might be guided by. A captain's log book of setback after setback, overcome by sheer grit, unwavering friendship and loyalty. Ultimately, it is a skipper's tribute to his family, friends, employees, partners, clients - and the mighty oceans that have been his destiny.
Evergreen lifts off. (shipping business buys airplanes to compete in carrying passengers and freight) (Business) (column)
Oct 14, 1989; Evergreen lifts off MR CHANG YUNG-FA is piloting a new and risky course for Taiwan's Evergreen group, the world's largest...