Love in the air (cargo terminal)

Handling is a serious business. At Hactl’s SuperTerminal 1, it’s a non-stop, round-the-clock, fast-paced activity that provides little time to think about anything other than work. Or, so you might think. Yet, against all the odds, four people have found love at SuperTerminal 1. And, today, they form two happily-married couples: Duty Manager Mak Ka Cheuk and Senior Operation Clerk Emma Cheung, and Senior Supervisor Lee Ka Ming and part-time Cargo Handler Ida Sum. And they aren’t too shy to share their love stories

She treats people with sincerity so it was always comfortable being with her. That's how I grew fond of her.

Ka Ming and Ida

The story of Lee Ka Ming (Ka Ming) and Sum Ka Lin (Ida) began when they first met in Hactl’s Terminal Services – Cargo Services team in 2008. It was to be the place where they would go through many important stages in life together.

Ka Ming joined Hactl’s Cargo Services team in 2006, where around 100 staff worked the same shift every day. It was a large department and most people would bury themselves in the documents. When Ida joined in 2008: “At first, I didn’t pay much attention to Ida at all,” Ka Ming remembers. “Me neither!” Ida retorts, “I just wanted to adapt quickly and get familiar with the work!”

Very different

It took Ida about six months to integrate into the various social groups within the company, and participate in activities such as dinners, hikes, barbeques, and badminton sessions. Ida is sporty, and was a member of the track and field team at secondary school, so she likes to participate in the company’s outdoor and sports activities. And that’s how she got to know Ka Ming.

“I really liked how earnest and caring Ka Ming is,” Ida says. More importantly, he also fulfilled Ida's other criteria for a partner: he neither smoked nor drank. “Probably because I love sports, I value good health and I don’t like the idea of my partner smoking,” she explains. Ka Ming also appreciated Ida: “She treats people with sincerity so it was always comfortable being with her. That’s how I grew fond of her,” Ka Ming says.

The two are very different in character: Ka Ming is quiet while Ida is very talkative. But they found themselves perfectly suited for one another, and the two eventually fell in love…with a little help from their workmates! “There was another couple in the same department at that time,” Ka Ming continues. “They often asked Ida and me out. As a group of four we would often go hiking or play ball games.” Adds Ida: “I later learned that they had been trying to pair us off, and had been creating opportunities for us!” The group of four duly reduced to a one-on-one date, and the two finally became a couple after knowing each other for eight months!

The two have a longstanding agreement that there should be a clear distinction between work and personal lives.

A clear distinction

The two have a longstanding agreement that there should be a clear distinction between work and personal lives. “It is of course wonderful to fall in love, but we are both serious about our work and do not want our personal lives to affect our colleagues,” declares Ka Ming. Even when they were dating, the two would rarely re-schedule their holidays with their colleagues just to take days off together. “How can you inconvenience others just because you are dating?” he asks. “Other colleagues also have their own plans.” Even though they work in the same company, they often don't show up as a pair. “Even after our marriage, we don’t see each other at work very much. I still have lunch with my own teammates,” Ida says.

The couple’s lives have changed drastically since the birth of their first child, a son, in 2017. “Taking care of a child is like having a full-time job!” says Ida. Since she wanted to devote as much time as possible to taking care of her son, last year she asked to switch to a part-time role. “I did struggle with this, since I am a career-oriented person. However, you only get to see your child grow up once, and I really don’t want to miss it. Luckily, the company and my boss were willing to accommodate my request and allowed me to choose a work pattern that enabled me to balance my family and my career.” Ida adds: “Of course, my husband was also very supportive during my pregnancy, and remains so when it comes to my job.”

The two exchange an affectionate glance, as if every thought has been silently understood and agreed.

She was a bright person, and detail-minded at the same time. I was always happy to be able to work with her.

Makka & Emma

Back in the 90s, Hong Kong’s airport was still at the old Kai Tak site, and Hactl’s Service Delivery Department was a male-dominated environment. It wasn’t the kind of place that would have been expected to appeal to most girls. So, when Supervisor Trainee Mak Ka Cheuk (Makka) saw a timid girl by the name of Emma Cheung (Emma) one day in 1994, he figured she wouldn’t last long. And Emma herself thought the same: on her very first day there, she quickly concluded that it was totally different from all the other offices she had seen. True, the Exports Office had air-conditioning and computers, but the staff who worked there were decidedly masculine – and she didn’t think it would be a suitable place for her.

But, the moment she met Makka, she decided he was very different to the other supervisors. “Things were hectic at the terminal and the atmosphere at work was always intense,” she recounts. “Makka was a Supervisor at that time, but he liked to crack jokes even when everyone was busy. Gradually, I began to feel that life in the terminal was not that bad after all; at least there was one ‘silly guy’ telling jokes every day.” Makka takes up the story: “I gradually changed my views on Emma as time went by. She was a bright person, and detail-minded at the same time. I was always happy to be able to work with her.”

A sense of belonging

After working there for three or four months, Emma began to feel a sense of belonging in the terminal, and decided she did not want to quit any more. “What was most surprising was how warehouse staff who normally looked fierce would talk to me in a very mild manner, seeing that I was a girl. And they would count me in for afternoon tea, and dinner parties.”

Once, a large group of workmates went cycling around Taipo; and several people including Makka made fun of Emma (who wasn’t very skilled at cycling), zig-zagging in front of her a number of times. The inevitable happened, and Emma fell off, grazing her knees. Emma adds: “He was even more upset than me – so I started to wonder if he liked me!”

On another occasion, Emma went out with a group of colleagues for a karaoke evening. Makka thought there were too many people, and was rather bored. So he plucked up courage to ask Emma if she would like to slip out to the movies with him. “I still remember that we watched Speed, which was a big hit that year,” Makka recalls fondly. After many more “unintentional” dates, Makka and Emma fell in love.

“We had a very good relationship with our colleagues and, at our wedding, all the groomsmen were workmates from Hactl. My best man was an old friend who had joined Hactl the same year as me,” adds Makka.

We are rather emotionally attached to our company. After all, it seems to have had a hand in starting our family!

Hactl starts a family

The pair were never embarrassed about working together in the same department, when they first started dating. Emma recalls: “We were not affectionate at all when we were at work, and argued quite a lot. That’s not surprising, though: because we both had our own ideas and we both wanted to do things right. The interesting thing is that we wouldn't be annoyed once we got off work.”

“This is how we got along,” adds Makka. “There was no ‘overnight hatred’, meaning that any conflicts at work would never be taken home and would not last till the next day.” When the airport moved to Chek Lap Kok, the two found themselves working in different places: one in the South Office Block and the other in the North Office Block. “That’s even better, because there can be no conflicts at work!” Emma laughs.

Now, almost 20 years of blissful married life have passed for the pair, and they have two children; their eldest son graduates from secondary school this year. “We are rather emotionally attached to our company. After all, it seems to have had a hand in starting our family!” Makka says contentedly. Meanwhile Emma – who nearly quit on day 1 – is still working at Hactl, 20 years on!