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New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 NZS
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd
Date(s): [1873-1979]
Level of description: Collection
Extent: Department of Ships: 10 boxes
Name of creator(s): New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd


Administrative/Biographical history:

The New Zealand Shipping Company Limited was incorporated in 1873 in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a group of local farmers and merchants, who were dissatisfied with the existing shipping facilities and their ability to cope with the country's rapidly expanding trade. It was at first administered from New Zealand, with a London 'Board of Advice' in the City. The company began by purchasing four second-hand iron sailing ships. Competition from the existing shipping companies, particularly Shaw Savill and the Albion Line was keen, and there was initially a brief rate war which led to an agreement ensuring uniform and viable rates of freight. Within four years of its inception the company was operating seventeen ships under its own flag as well as a large number of chartered vessels. In 1879 a joint charter, by Shaw Savill and the company, of a steamship demonstrated that, at the outset at least, a regular steamship service would have to be subsidized. Accepting this, the Colonial Government provided for a subsidy of 30,000 on its joint contract with Shaw Savill and Albion and the company in 1884: this contract ran for five years and was not renewed. Refrigeration was introduced and the second cargo of frozen meat from New Zealand was carried in 1882 in one of the company's sailing ships, the Mataura, fitted with Haslam's cold-air refrigerating machinery. In 1880 financial control of the company was transferred to London, and the business was reorganized. When in 1889 Edwyn Sandys Dawes (later Sir Edwyn, 1838-1903) acquired the controlling interest, it was the start of a connection between the company and the Dawes family which was to last until 1970. The company absorbed the Federal Steam Navigation Co in 1912 and the amalgamation secured for the company a firm foothold in the Australian trade. The Federal Steam Navigation Company Ltd was founded in 1892 after Allan Hughes (d 1928) had acquired the remaining assets of Money Wigram and Sons Ltd, owners of the Blackwall Line; the Federal Line ships flew the same house-flag and used the same English county names as Money Wigram's. Allan Hughes became chairman of the New Zealand Shipping Company in 1920.

In 1916 the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company acquired a controlling interest in the company. Both the New Zealand Shipping Company and the Federal Line, however, enjoyed considerable autonomy. Parallel to, but less important than the United Kingdom trade, was the affiliation of New Zealand Shipping and the Federal Line with other shipping companies, either as shareholders in a company or partners in a consortium. An early exampleof this was the New Zealand and African Steamship Company, 1902 to 1911, to take care of trade with South Africa. The Canadian connection, the Canadian-Australian Royal Mail Line, 1901 to 1910, was a joint venture between New Zealand Shipping and the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand. A later development was the Montreal, Australia and New Zealand Line, 1941 to 1971, a partnership between New Zealand Shipping, Ellerman's and the Port Line. M.A.N.Z., as it was called, took in the East Coast United States, which trade was also served by the American and Australian Steamship Line, 1956 to 1971. In 1954 the Avenue Shipping Company Ltd was founded to augment the New Zealand and Federal fleets when needed; otherwise its ships were put into tramping. The Crusader Line (1957-1967) a joint service from New Zealand to the West Coast of the United States and to Japan, with Shaw Savill, Port Line, Blue Star and New Zealand Shipping as partners, was another Pacific venture. Finally the Dolphin Line (1967-1971) was a joint service of conventional ships to supplement the Overseas Containers Ltd operation; the partners were New Zealand Shipping Company, Scottish Shire and Clan Lines, Shaw Savill and Ocean Steam Navigation Company.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd. Apart from one missing volume, 1876 to 1879, there are continuous minute books of Directors' meetings in London from 1874 to 1971; copies of the 'Colony' Board minutes, 1890 to 1904, illustrate the changeover from New Zealand to London management. There is also a volume of minutes of General Meetings of shareholders held in London, 1888 to 1971. The Directors' minute books of the Federal Steam Navigation Company cover the period 1892 to 1964. Routine account books are not part of the collection, although there are isolated cash books, journals and ledgers of the affiliated companies: three early cash books of the company, 1873 to 1892; and a series of private ledgers both for the company, 1900 to 1954 and the Federal Line, 1904 to 1936. Files on contracts and agreements exist for the period 1912 to 1943. The company's interest in the New Zealand passenger trade is well documented in the minutes and correspondence; details of the early homeward voyages date from 1883 to 1887 and there is a long series of 'outward' (i.e. London to New Zealand) passenger books, 1894 to 1955. These contain names only and are unindexed. Passengers apart, there are general steamers' movement books from 1906 to 1971. Two books set out the early victualling scales, 1876 and 1879. A good sample of vessels' voyage files survives, 1966 to 1971. Early correspondence is limited to three private letter and telegram books, 1912 to 1936, of C.J. Cowan (d 1944) who was chairman of the company from 1928 until his death. The bulk of the letter files is concerned with exchanges with London, Wellington and Sydney, and with conference letters and circulars, 1960 to 1971. A series of files, 1940 to 1970, relates to subjects like freight negotiations, research and programming. The launching and operations of the three Federal Line tankers, 1958 to 1960, are also on file. The private files of C.A.W. Dawes (1919- ) chairman of the company from 1966 to 1970, deal with the specialized situations which call for the attention of senior management. On the technical side there are Marine Superintendents'reports, 1901 to 1971, together with vessels'plans and handbooks for use on board ship. Records of the affiliated companies mentioned above are as follows: New Zealand and African Steam Shipping Company Ltd, minute books, 1902 to 1911, register of members, 1902 to 1909, Memorandum and Articles of Association; Montreal Australia New Zealand Line, account books 1956 to 1971; American and Australian Steamship Line, account books, 1956 to 1971; Avenue Shipping, minute book, 1954 to 1962; Crusader Line, correspondence and information, 1965 to 1967; Dolphin Line, correspondence and circulars, 1967 to 1970. (Section 3: NZS/: 275ft: 84m) Ships' Plans: there are also plans for ships of the company in the P&O collection of plans.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information. There are certain restrictions on the use of the staff records which are more stringent than the normal thirty-year rule for business records.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were deposited on loan by P&O in instalments from 1969 to 1979. They were deposited on the understanding that the company has first sight of any work which makes extensive use of the collection.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Edited by Sarah Drewery, Sep 2011.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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