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Hong Kong's central harbour and western anchorage on 16 April 1964.  At the HMS Tamar base at lower right is the three-funnelled Hong Kong flagship HMS MANXMAN, better known perhaps for achieving 40  knots as a minelayer when new in 1937.  At right is the rebuilt USS. PROVIDENCE, now one of the world's first guided missile cruisers and probably carrying nuclear weapons. Just to her left at Holts' Wharf is Blue Funnel 's 'P' class passenger ship PERSEUS and a Glen Liner.  At very centre in the foreground the Star Ferry has just commenced a harbour crossing. A closeup of the Kowloon landing is included at the very foot of this page; the overseas passenger terminal has not yet been built (montage photos by SK, Mamiya Ruby Standard/Kodachrome).


Illustrated Fleet lists of Steamship Companies of the China Coast, Pearl and Yangtze Rivers, and Beyond



​Copyright from 1973 by the authors 

​Howard W. Dick and Stephen A. Kentwell 


This site presents over 2500 A4 pages of illustrated fleet lists in PDF form. The fleet lists are divided into ten categories described below. The 'Chinese' categories may include ships which had Chinese-based ownership but were registered under non-Chinese flags including that of British-administered Hong Kong. Click on the green menu bar located at the top and bottom of any main page to access the main category pages from which the PDF files can be accessed.

该站点以 PDF 格式提供了超过 2500 页的 A4 页图解车队列表。机队列表分为以下十个类别。“中国”类别包括拥有中国所有权但在非中国国旗下注册的船舶,包括英国管理的香港。单击位于任何主页顶部和底部的绿色菜单栏以访问类别演示文稿和 PDF 文件。


  • The BIG FIVE steamship companies, foreign and Chinese and originating during the Qing Dynasty, 
    which successfully developed comprehensive operations covering the Yangtse, the coast and beyond

  • Other FOREIGN steamship companies operating on the China coast in the period to October 1949

  • Other CHINESE steamship companies operating on the coast in the period to October 1949

  • Steamship fleets of the PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

  • Hong Kong and Taiwan-based 'NEW WAVE' private Chinese steamship companies after 1949, registered in various locations

  • HONG KONG-based steamship fleet operating locally to Guangzhou, Macao, Manila, Taiwan, Shantou, Xiamen, Fuzhou etc.*

  • Steamship fleets operating on the YANGTSE River and to adjacent coastal areas in the period to October 1949*

  • Pioneering steamships and companies of OTHER NATIONS sailing to China (excluding Singapore and the Philippines)

  • Steamship companies operating from SINGAPORE and the Straits

  • Steamship companies operating from THE PHILIPPINES.

  • 清代中外大五家轮船公司,成功开发了涵盖长江、沿海及其他地区的综合业务

  • 1949 年 10 月以前在中国沿海经营的其他外国轮船公司

  • 1949 年 10 月之前在沿海运营的其他中国轮船公司

  • 中华人民共和国海运局

  • “新浪潮” 1949年后的中国民营轮船公司,在各地注册

  • 以香港为基地的轮船队营运本地至广州、澳门、马尼拉、台湾、汕头、厦门、福州等地*

  • 1949年10 月以前长江和邻近沿海地区营运的轮船船队*

  • 其他国家的先锋轮船和公司驶往中国

  • 在新加坡运营的轮船公司

  • 在菲律宾运营的轮船公司。

*Some of the entries in these geographic-based categories may duplicate those in earlier categories


The main content of this site is accessed by then clicking on the PDF files introduced on the pages of this site.  The pages can be adjusted within the PDF format.  Here is a sample PDF.

注意:通过单击下面介绍的PDF文件可以访问此站点的主要内容。可以在 PDF 格式内调整页面。这是样本PDF。

We have introduced a solid red PDF icon for manuscripts written by persons other than Howard or Stephen.


Our PDF files contain illustrated fleet lists of the named entities.  While the first few pages may consist of a textual introduction, each PDF file outlines individual ship careers and is profusely illustrated with photographs. 


This is a non-profitmaking site. It is under continuing development and is added to frequently. 


Overlap betwen text and photos may result if the browser on your computer is not at the standard 100% viewing setting.  This should be easy to adjust by holding down the control ("Ctrl") button on your keyboard, and turning the mouse wheel. 


Introduction to the site



From the coming of the age of steamships the China Coast saw an active building up of shipping fleets, both by foreign-flag companies which came to dominate services to the "Treaty Ports" and by Chinese shipping interests, initally limited to the state-owned China Merchants S.N. Co.  This site presents shipping fleets of both foreign-flag and Chinese-flag categories, which then faced the severe political and other difficulties of the 1930s and 1940s.  The selected photographs below are intended to exemplify the general evolution of ship types covered by this site.


The first photograph below, taken by Sylvester Dutton and Vince Michaels at Canton in 1863, shows the 1845-built IRON PRINCE, a British steamship in service between Hong Kong and Canton. It is the oldest merchant steamship photographed in China that we have found so far. Details of IRON PRINCE may be found in the "Other Canton Steam Vessels to 1889" list in the "Hong Kong" section and in the Milne list in the "Overseas section". The second photo taken at Chefoo (Yantai) probably in January or February of 1936, shows vessels marooned in severe ice  (University of Bristol - Historical Photographs of China reference number: Si-s04).













































Chinese shipowners were disadvantaged in political and economic terms and private shipowners were even prohibited by the Qing Dynasty from owning steamships until about 1897, but eventually could draw together local capital and support, an outstanding ability to maintain ships and a persistence to override the various obstacles.  The next photo taken by Don Gammon at Hong Kong on 5 December 1939 and kindly provided to us by Bill Schell shows HAI YUN of the State-owned China Merchants S.N. Co. flagged out to Portuguese Macao as ELSIE in order to avoid capture by Japan.  The ship survived World War II and was registered in Keelung after the war.



We also present some of the fleets in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Both passenger carrying vessels and cargo ships are featured.  In addition to such ships operated on the mainland, we present companies from the "new wave" of non-PRC flag Chinese operators which first emerged in the 1950s. Shown first below in an image adapted from Stephen Card's wonderful painting is GOLDEN ALPHA, the first vessel in 1955 owned by Y.K. Pao, later Sir Yue Kong Pao. Born in Ningpo in 1918, his Wordwide Shipping Group became the largest shipping company in the world with over 20 million tonnes deadweight. We have not yet prepared a study of this company. Next is the JEANNIE of the Eddie S.S. Co. built in Keelung in 1969 as the first of ten sisters. At the time it was the largest ship to have been built in China. Eddie S.S, Co. is run by a descendant of Charles Eddie Hsu (see 'Chinese' page) and features on the 'New Wave' page.















There are other companies which we are working on, but have not yet covered. These include those operating the first steamships on the Yangtse River in the 1860s such as Dent & Co., Lindsay & Co., and Augustine Heard & Co., the famous Dollar Line, the large Ming Sung Industrial Company which came to dominate Upper River shipping in the 1930s and the secondhand breakbulk cargo ships of China Ocean Shipping Co. (COSCO). Some relevant illustrations follow.


Shown below in a newly identified photograph at Pyrmont in Sydney prior to leaving for China in 1861 is the GOVERNOR GENERAL, a walking beam side-wheeler built at New York in 1848 as the NEW ORLEANS. The ship is described as having a reddish funnel with black top, cream superstructure and three buff masts. In April 1861 it was only the third merchant steamship and first British-flag merchant ship to reach Hankow, flying the houseflag of Dent & Co. (SLNSW IR238236).  Some years earlier this ship is believed to be only the third ship to cross the Pacific eastbound by steam, departing San Francisco on 11 March 1853 and arriving at Brisbane on 14 May.



​Dollar Line's oceangoing ships were complemented by the company's Yangtse steamers and Shanghai harbour craft.  Shown below is the well equipped tender DOLLAR of 1926 which carried American tourists, military personnel and ships' crew from Dollar ships at their anchorages to the Shanghai Bund (SK*).





























Next is a photo of the Melchers & Co. German-flag Lower Yangtse River steamer MEI LEE of 1900 which later passed to China Merchants S.N. Co. (Internet). We intend to cover the many smaller Yangtse ships of the prewar Ming Sung company, as well as the post-1950 Changjiang (Yangtse) Maritime Bureau's small fleet of REN MIN cargo ships. Beneath is Chris Mackey's view of REN MIN 1 ("Peoples No.1"), thought to have been a rebuilding of Standard Oil Co.'s Yangtse steamer MEI CHUEN of 1923.  




















When China Ocean Shg. Co. (COSCO) was established in 1961 one of the first ships acquired, illustrated below in a photo in Stephen's collection, was the former HIGHLAND PRINCESS, built in 1930, which was renamed GUANGHUA and based in Guangzhou. It soon made voyages to Indonesia, Yemen, and East Africa, and seems to have had a long life, the Miramar database indicating it was not broken up until 1992. We plan to publish a list of the passenger ships and breakbulk cargo ships acquired by COSCO.  We have already published an illustrated list of COSCO ships built in China, accessible via the 'PRC' tab.




















The next photo is a COSCO cargo ship, the US-built 'Liberty' JIADING at London in March 1967 during China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The slogan above the bridge says "Chairman Mao Zedong's thoughts guide great red navigation". The ship's original name was AMELIA EARHART and it was acquired by a PLC-affiliated Panamanian company in 1951 and renamed MODENA. However, the next 14 years were spent under the Polish flag as PRZYSZLOSC, owned by Chinese Polish Joint Stock Shipping Company (Chipolbrok) which until 1977 was a clandestine operation. JIADING's last reported voyage was in June 1967.  The photo was kindly provided by Peter Fitzpatrick from his collection, with the help of Malcolm Cranfield.

























A beautiful five-hatch cargoliner was COSCO's SHAN YIN, built in 1961 as TANGANYIKA of DAL Deutsche Afrika-Linien GmbH & Co. of Hamburg.  In 1971 she passed to the Chinese-owned Somali-flag Yick Fung Shg. & Enterprises Ltd and was renamed INDIAN OCEAN before passing to COSCO in 1974 and serving them for eighteen years. Her identical sister TRANSVAAL similarly became PACIFIC OCEAN and then PING YIN (photo by Donald Anderson at Hong Kong).  We have studies covering Yick Fung and the rather similar Ocean Tramping Co. which are accessible via the 'PRC' tab.



















Beneath are two breakbulk COSCO cargo ships which will feature in future lists. First is the six-hatch LONG TAN, built in 1958 as the MISSISSIPPI LLOYD of Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd N.V. and acquired in 1982.  The photograph was taken by Graham Thursby at Hong Kong in April 1982, but there are no known reports of her being seen after this time, and she was probably soon broken up at Guangzhou. Beneath is Donald Anderson's photograph at Hong Kong in 1990 of HE TIAN, built in Pakistan to a likely Chinese-influenced design but she was the only COSCO ship of this exact type. On the PRC page we have a full illustrated listing of all 57 traditional-type  cargoliners built in the PRC for COSCO. 



































As a rule the contemporary Wade-Giles transliteration of Chinese names is used for pre-1958 ship and personal names, as that is how names were reported in the press of the era, and how ship names were officially registered and actually painted on the ships themselves. The Chinese characters painted on ships sides were read from right to left and sometimes from bow to stern until 1946, when the writing mode generally changed to from left to right.

Photographs and other illustrations are presented for study purposes only.   Persons seeking copies of photographs should direct their enquiries to the sources as listed. An asterisk in the credits indicates that a photograph printed off the original negative or slide film is owned by one or both of the authors.

All rights are reserved.  These lists have involved considerable research by Howard and Stephen since the 1960s and we are concerned that authors' rights be protected.  We are amenable to allowing use of material on this site for private study and for non-profit-making purposes. A condition for any reproduction is that the source should be acknowledged and the authors should be informed.  We have attempted at all times to maintain accuracy, but cannot guarantee an absence of errors.

We would very much welcome comments, photographs, publishable material or other new information to add to this site which will be updated periodically.  These may be entered in the blog accessed via the menu bar or sent to the webmaster at <>.  Substantive comments and queries will be acknowledged.

SEARCH - Visitors to the site may wish to search for a particular ship.  The site presents around 30,000 ship names in the various PDF files, but the PDF format, necessary because of the detail of the material, is not easily searchable on site. The following search engine will search the site pages, but not the PDF files.  PDF files are searchable after being individually opened. 


But there are other ways to search. The principle we use to list ships is fairly straightforward - category of operator (choose page from menu)->name of operator (choose PDF)->chronological position in operator's list (look at year sequence and find name).


If this still does not produce a result, please do not hesitate to ask the webmaster by email at <> or enquire on the blog via the menu bar.



A closeup portion of the Hong Kong Panorama shown at the top of this page: From left the ships at the Kowloon wharves are TJILUWAH, SALMARA, unidentified NDL and  Wilhelmsen vessels, and STRAAT BANKA.  Earlier under R.N. escort TJILUWAH had delivered the new Hong Kong Governor, Sir David Clive Crosbie Trench (details in 'TJI-' ships section on Hong Kong Local page).

Hong Kong Star Ferry
steamship across pacific
steamship to Hankow
Dollar ship
Shanghai Dollar
PRC ship
Liberty ship
Largest Chinese-built ship
Eddie S.S. Co
Y.K. Pao
China Merchants alternative ship
COSCO early ship
DAL Deutsche Afrika
earliest Chinese steamship
Ships in ice
German Yangtse steamer
German Yangtze steamer
Standard Oil Co China
Ren Min ship
COSCO six hatch
Rotterdamsche Lloyd
COSCO ship Pakistan
Hong Kong 1964
ship Guang Hua
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