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British Industrial History

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Alfred Holt and Co

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Alfred Holt and Company, better known as the Blue Funnel Line.

1866 Founded by Alfred Holt and Philip Henry Holt on the 16 January, 1866, to run steamers, equipped with Alfred's own design of compound engines, from Liverpool to Asia. After initial difficulties the company achieved success when the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. The Canal reduced the long voyage and gave Blue Funnel steamships an advantage over their sailing rivals which could not use it.

A Dutch subsidiary, the Nederlandsche Stoomvaart Maatschappij Oceaan, was founded in 1891, as was the East India Ocean Steam Ship Company, operated from Singapore. This latter was sold in 1899 to Norddeutscher Lloyd.

The main operating subsidiary was the Ocean Steamship Company, which owned and operated the majority of the company's vessels.

By 1901 a direct UK to Australia service had started.

1902 The company acquired the competing China Mutual Steam Navigation Company, keeping it on the books as a separate company but operating it as part of the Blue Funnel Line.

By 1911 Blue Funnel Line owned between sixty and seventy ships.

WWI The war cost Blue Funnel twelve vessels

1920s reduced demand for the Australia service so a joint service was established with the White Star Line.

1920s Alfred Holt and Co took a 41% share in the Caledon Yard which led to a focus on building large cargo-liners of which 35 were made for Holt's Blue Funnel Line and many more for other companies.

1931 Took over Glen Line

1932 The Holts took over the Elder Dempster Line

1935 Acquired Shire Lines and the Straits Steam Ship Co.

WWII cost Blue Funnel forty-one ships.

Postwar services used Liberty Ships for many sailings until A-class replacements were delivered between 1946 and 1953.

The Blue Funnel Line maintained its dominant position in Asia until the 1970s, their stability due, in part, to participation in the Overseas Container Lines consortium, set up in 1965.

1972 Blue Funnel changed its name to Ocean Transport and Trading Co.

Tookover the Cory Fuel Distribution Group.

Operated off-shore supply vessels and bulkers, tankers, gas carriers and the Barber Blue Sea TransPacific service.

1988 The Blue Funnel Line came to an end in 1988 when Ocean Group withdrew from the Barber Blue Sea Service, its last shipping line.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Merseyside Maritime Museum [2]