Remembering George Chapman: A leader, family man, pioneer and friend of Dubai
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Remembering George Chapman: A leader, pioneer and friend of Dubai

Remembering George Chapman: A leader, pioneer and friend of Dubai

Under Chapman’s leadership, Port Rashid transformed into a symbol of Dubai’s growing status as a trade and shipping hub

George Chapman Image: Supplied

We regret to report the sad demise of a maritime visionary, George Chapman, the former chairman of Port Rashid and ex-general manager of Gray Mackenzie (now Maritime & Mercantile International), on October 29, in Dubai. He was 98 years old.

Chapman was a dedicated leader and family man, a pillar of the community, and an invaluable contributor to the emirate’s maritime industry, and his legacy will forever be etched into the annals of Dubai’s history.

A close and trusted advisor of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chapman consulted closely with the leader on matters related to shipping, trade, and business.

Chapman, who came to Dubai from the UK in 1950 to work for Gray Mackenzie and Co, resided on the upper floor of Mackenzie House – also known as Bayt Al Wakheel (Agents House) – which is still situated on the creek at the entrance to Bur Dubai Souq.

Chapman, an astute leader, played a significant role in the company’s initial growth and subsequent transition to Maritime & Mercantile International (MMI) in 1983. MMI, which marked 100 years of operations in 2016, lauded him for his exemplary contributions to the company.

Throughout his illustrious career, he achieved remarkable milestones. He was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) when he was in Oman in 1959 and the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in Dubai in 1978.

Chapman served as the chairman of Port Rashid in 1979. Under his leadership, Port Rashid transformed into a symbol of Dubai’s growing status as a trade and shipping hub. His commitment to advancing the port’s infrastructure and technology set new standards for the industry. Chapman also served as chairman of Ras Al Khaimah Ports Services in the 70s.

He served as a consultant and advisor to Sharjah Ports Authority until recently.

Chapman also worked closely with and consulted for shipping agents Rais Hassan Saadi Group for more than 20 years.

But beyond his professional achievements,  Chapman will be remembered for his unwavering dedication to his family, friends and Dubai. He always found time to offer his wisdom and guidance while sharing stories about his time in Dubai.

Interesting anecdotes that have been chronicled include the time when the late Queen Elizabeth II and the late Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in Dubai on the royal yacht, Britannia.

Chapman was given a very special mission – to seek out a quiet spot for a royal picnic.

“I had a message from my office in London saying the Queen’s secretary had been discussing with them the route the ship was taking [from the UAE to Oman],” he said in an article published in UAE-based English daily, The National. “She wanted to stop somewhere on the way and I was asked to recommend a suitable place.”

Chapman picked a “delightful beach” on Ghanim Island, at the head of the Ras Musandam peninsula. “We took our boat up there to check that everything was just the same. As far as I remember they visited the island as suggested,” he stated in the article.

Accompanying him on the reconnaissance were his daughters Vanessa and Katherine.

“When the Queen was here, I remember the family going to Musandam by boat during the school holiday,” Vanessa said. “We arrived in the Khasab bay and my father was collected by boat and given an armed escort to meet the Wali of Khasab and we weren’t sure we would see him again!”

Another interesting story that underscores Chapman’s deep connection to Dubai’s community was referred to in an article published on the KHDA website to mark the 50th anniversary of Dubai English Speaking School (DESS), the oldest English school in Dubai.

Tracing DESS’ origins, he related, “We were only three European families in Dubai in the early 1960s. There was only one Arabic school then, so our wives took it upon themselves to teach our children. We also roped in Flight Lieutenant Loughman who was working in Sharjah as he had some teaching experience back home [UK]. He started taking lessons at his Bur Dubai home. When the number of children increased, we raised funds to put up a building in Port Rashid.”

These wonderful tales depict his deep connection to Dubai as well as his long-standing commitment to the community.

Chapman leaves behind a world changed for the better by his contributions and a lasting impact on the industry and emirate he held so close to his heart.

We extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. ANS

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