Illustrated Fleet lists of Steamship Companies of the China Coast, and the Pearl and Yangtze Rivers
Copyright from 1973 by the authors
Howard W. Dick and Stephen A. Kentwell
This site involves a large number of illustrated fleet lists in PDF form. We have divided them below by geographic area:
Major China-based steamship operating companies with operations covering the whole Coast, the Yangtse and beyond
Coastal steamship companies which mainly operated to and from North China
Steamship fleets and companies mainly operating on the Yangtse and from Shanghai to Ningpo
Coastal steamship companies mainly operating to and from Shanghai
Steamship companies operating between Hong Kong, Canton and Macao
Steamship companies operating companies mainly sailing from South China
Pioneering steamships and companies of other nations sailing to China including the United States, Japan, French Indochina and the Philippines.
In November 2020 we received, courtesy of Malcom Cranfield, many spectacular photographic files from Markus Berger showing ZHANDOU and other PRC ships taken from the 1970s. Selected photos have been added to the Shanghai Maritime Bureau cargo ship list and other lists. Of particular note among many were good photos of ZHANDOU 7, formerly Jardines' KWEI SANG of 1917, and JI HAI 2, an evident 1970s rebuild of Shanghai Maritime Bureau passenger ship GONG NONG BING 6, originally built for U.S. owners in 1899 as PONCE. Thank you Markus.
In November 2020, further to the earlier parts of China Merchants S.N. Co. based in Shanghai, we published Part III, a detailed illustrated fleetlist of the China Merchants fleet that was based in Taipei from 1949. Bill Schell has kindly provided an extraordinary collection of photographs of the ships of this company, and we are also grateful to C.C. Hsu for very kindly holding a luncheon banquet in Taipei to resolve some difficult questions including photographs and histories of the HAI JIH and HAI CHUANG which were briefly in the Taipei-controlled fleet. We have also updated Parts I and II including the first photograph of the HAN KWANG of 1876, and more photographs, as always gratefully received from Bill Schell's unparallelled collection, of Part II ships taken in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the second half of 2020 photographs of merchant ships in Chinese waters have been gratefully received from the collections of (in alphabetical order) Malcolm Cranfield, Alan Lee, Bill Schell, Graham Thompson and Graham Thursby, and many of these have now been incorporated in updated versions of various of our lists, especially the Shanghai Maritime Bureau cargo list, the Jardine Matheson lists, and Yu Ya-ching's Yangtse fleet. Further photos from Alan Lee have been added to the China Merchants Part I, Dalian Bureau, Shanghai Bureau Passenger list Part !, and the Guangzhou Bureau passenger ship lists.
C.C. Hsu has kindly assisted in sending us copies of illustrated books on Chinese shipping published in Shanghai by Taiwan-based Yao Kai-yang, and of such volumes as the history of C.S. Koo and the Valles Steamship Co Ltd., the illustrated history of China Merchants S.N. Co., and two magnificent volumes on the Eddie S.S. Co. founded by his grandfather Charles Eddie Hsu, and these are helping the illustration of our lists.
In August and September 2020, new illustrated fleet lists have been added of China-Manila S.S. Co. Ltd (in the overseas section), Shanghai Tug & Lighter Co. Ltd (in the Yangtse section) and the harbour and salvage tugs of Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd (in the Hong Kong/Canton/Macao section). We have also updated the postwar China Merchants S.N. Co. list with several more photographs kindly contributed by Bill Schell.
September 2020-Our HOPING/ZHANDOU/HEPING list of this former backbone cargo fleet of the Shanghai Maritime Bureau has undergone further revisions, with photographs reformatted in a larger size and new photographs, including many spectacular ones very kindly contributed by master mariner Chris Mackey. We are most appreciative to have access to Chris's beautiful colour photos, mainly taken around Shanghai in the 1980s, including some amazing ships of World War I vintage. More of Chris's photos can be seen at his website. Bill Schell also has contributed some rare photographs, and Rex Cox has contributed a 1966 colour photo, taken by the late Noel Brown, of SHENG LI (ex-LIEBENFELS of 1921) which became HOPING 1. Alan Lee has also provided us with an extraordinary post-1966 colour photograph of the sister ship (ex-WARTENFELS) as ZHANDOU 1.
Note: The main content of this site is accessed by clicking on the PDF files introduced below. Here is a sample PDF.
This is a non-profitmaking site. It is under continuing development. It is best viewed using the Google Chrome browser at 100% size and may lose formatting and/or add-ons (such as the PDF files) otherwise.
From the coming of the age of steamships the China Coast saw an active building up of shipping fleets, both by major foreign-flag companies which were able to dominate services to the "Treaty Ports" and by Chinese shipping interests. The Chinese companies were severely disadvantaged in political and economic terms but could draw together local capital and support, an outstanding ability to maintain ships and a persistence to override the various obstacles.
This site presents the major shipping fleets of both categories, which then faced the severe political and other difficulties of the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the Chinese companies went on to survive in some form, often under other flags, in second half of the 20th century. We also present some of the fleets of the early years of the People's Republic of China. Both passenger carrying vessels and cargo ships are featured.
We would very much welcome comments, photographs, publishable material or other new information to add to this site which will be updated periodically. All messages will be acknowledged. These may be sent to the webmaster at <>.
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 bow to stern and sometimes from right to left until 1946, when the writing mode generally changed to from left to right.
Photographs and other illustrations are presented at low resolution, sometimes with a text watermark, 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.
Major Ship Operators Whose Operations Covered the Whole Coast and Yangtse
From the 19th century the major coastal shipping companies, operating along the coast from north to south and to some destinations abroad were, in order of establishment:
Jardine, Matheson & Co., London, undertaking China coastal and river operations from 1852, including as
China Coast Steam Navigation Company (1873-81)
Yangtze Steam Navigation Company Ltd (1879-81)
Indo-China Steam Navigation Company Ltd (1881-1976)
Click the PDF at right for a full illustrated fleet list of the Jardine, Matheson & Co. powered ships (initially published in 1973).
A company subsumed by the Indo-China Steam Navigation Co was the German-managed Trautmann & Co (1863) for which the fleet list is included in the Shanghai section.
Indo China S N Co river steamer KUNG WO (photo attribution US Naval History Heritage Command 77128).
Shanghai Steam Nav. Co. Ltd (1861) which was managed by Russell & Co., Shanghai, was the predominant U.S. shipping company in China and became the principal predecessor of the great China Merchants Steam Nav. Co. Ltd. into which it merged in 1877. An illustrated fleet list of the Shanghai Steam Nav. Co. Ltd. is in the PDF at right.
Shanghai Steam Nav. Co.'s FIRE QUEEN was the largest steamer built in the United States especially for the Yangtse River and became part of the fleet of China Merchants Steam Nav. Co. Ltd. under the Chinese flag.
China Merchants Steam Nav. Co. Ltd (CMSNC) (1872) -The state-owned Chinese company: A short history and an illustrated fleet list in 3 parts (up to World War II; Shanghai 1945-1950; and Taipei 1949-95) of the China Merchants Steam Nav. Co. Ltd are in the PDFs at right. The General Manager of CMSNC, Tong King-sing formed the Chinese Engineering & Mining Company (CEMC) to supply coal for the ships. The small CEMC fleet is covered in the North China section.
China Merchants S N Co. coastal steamer HAI HENG (Barclay, Curle & Co.).
China Navigation Co. Ltd, London-John Swire & Sons, London, operated from 1873 as China Navigation Co. Ship histories of CNC ships by Howard were first published in 1973. The list in the PDF at right contains only the Yangtse river steamers and Ningpo steamers of this company. For the other ships we recommend the updated comprehensive listing at the Wikiswire site affiliated with the Swire organisation and the Historical Photographs of China site at the University of Bristol which houses the very large photograph collection of G. Warren Swire.
China Navigation Co's fast North China service steamer SHENGKING (photo attribution Warren Swire).
Negotiations by the Chinese Government resulted in the Treaty of 1943 which reserved Chinese coastal and river services for Chinese-flag ships only. Nevertheless, it is notable that a number of Chinese coastal operators had managed to build substantial fleets in the difficult conditions in the first part of the 20th century. We are introducing some of these operators below.
Yu Ya-ching (Yu Xiaqing) built up and managed a number of companies with varied shareholdings including
Ningshao S.N. Co. (1909)
San Peh S.N. Co (1914)
Hoong On S.N. Co. (1918)
Ningshin S.S. Co. (1918)
Chinese-Italian Navigation Co. Ltd (1937).
An updated text history (no ship photos) of the Yu Ya-ching (Yu Xiaqing) shipping companies written by Howard and published in "Sold East" in 1991 may be found in the first PDF at right. Updated illustrated fleetlists of the five Yu Ya-ching-managed companies, including those vessels of the Hoong On S.N. Co. fully managed from 1918, may be found in the second PDF.
The NINGSHAO was built at the Foochow Naval Arsenal in 1905. Yu Ya-ching operated the ship on the Shanghai-Ningpo service from 1909, and transferred her to the Hankow service in 1914, on which she operated until the late 1930s. (Photo from Graham Thompson collection.)
Yu Xiaqing had the HSIN NINGSHAO built in Shanghai and operated her for Ningshao S.N. Co. (SK collection).
CHANG HSING was operated by Yu Xiaqing for San Peh S N Co from 1926 until lost in 1948. The ship was built in Hong Kong and remodeled in Shanghai. (Photo attribution Malcolm Rosholt, Historical Photographs of China, University of Bristol ro-n0993.).
Tung Chao-yung (C.Y. Tung) was a prewar operator in Tianjin and Shanghai who came to have an important position in private sector shipping services. After the war he sought to reinvigorate coastal, Yangtse and international shipping by consolidating assets with other owners but with the Revolution, moved to Hong Kong where he was able to use his outstanding negotiating skills to build his fleets including the major international shipping line now known as Orient Overseas Container Line. Tung's eldest son Tung Chee-hwa became the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong after it was returned to China. We will be adding further material to this site.
C.Y. Tung's PEI MING of Tientsin Nav Co was carrying passengers and cargo between Tianjin and Shanghai in the late 1940s (S. Kentwell collection). (Reports that PEI MING was sunk in 1942 as HEINAN MARU 併南丸 are incorrect. HEINAN MARU was the captured Philippine ship BEINAIN. PEI MING was broken up at Hong Kong in 1952).
In 1970 C.Y. Tung bought the QUEEN ELIZABETH, then the largest passenger ship in the world (photo by Stephen Berry).
State-owned fleets-Following the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949, large State-owned fleets developed on the coast included the Shanghai-based HOPING (HEPING) cargo ships, later renamed in the ZHANDOU series, the Guangzhou-based NAN HAI series, and the Shanghai-based MIN CHU passenger ships, later renamed in the GONG NONG BING series. By the mid-to late 1950s some attractive new ships were being built in China. In the Shanghai section below is a PDF file presenting an illustrated fleet list covering the more than 20 passenger ships of the MIN CHU ("Democracy") series, which in 1966 became the GONG NONG BING ("Workers, Peasants and Soldiers"), series. Most of these 20 ships were later transferred to the Dalian Maritime Bureau (q.v. for the illustrated list). Lists of state-owned fleets operated by the Shanghai, Chang Jiang (Yangtse), Guangzhou and Dalian Bureaus will be found in the different geographic sections.
These two ships with 5-cylinder uniflow steam engines were built for the Chinese State in 1958-9 in a friendly race between Dalian and Shanghai which commanded national attention. HOPING 25 (upper) was built by Dalian Dockyard in North China. The similar HOPING 28 (lower) was built by the Jiangnan Dockyard & Engineering Co. in Shanghai. Details are in the Shanghai Maritime Bureau cargo ship list, in the 'Mainly Operating from Shanghai' section. (Photo attributions Xinhua.)
Coastal Steamship Companies Operating from North China 华北沿海轮船公司
This category covers a diversity of operators based in ports around the Gulf of Pohai, covering the Shantung Peninsula and Manchuria.
Chinese Mining & Engineering Co. (CEMC) was founded by Tong King-sing and in 1889 commenced to acquire a small fleet of coal-carrying ships. This was the second Chinese-flag shipping company recorded in Lloyd's Register of Shipping, but over Chinese objections was taken over by foreign interests following the Boxer Rebellion. A short history and fleet list is in the PDF file at right..
Ching Kee S.S. Co.was the largest prewar company in North China. It was close to Japanese interests in Chefoo (Yantai) but in the 1930s sent its fleet to layup in Hong Kong to avoid capture. See the PDF file at right for a full illustrated list.
"Pei" Ships-There were two companies based in Tientsin which used "PEI" nomenclature for their ships, and these are presented in the next PDF.
Shawhsing S.S. Co. was a company based in Newchwang (Yingkou) from the 1920s until the late 1940s. An illustrated fleet list is in the next PDF.
George Lewis Shawwas a British merchant based in Dandong (Antung) from around 1907 until 1938 when he moved to Foochow and continued his activities from there. He owned a small fleet of ships which is listed in the next PDF.
"Little Pohai"- A number of smaller Chinese companies operating prewar in the Pohai Gulf area, continuing in some cases after the war, are brought together in a fleetlist, in the PDF at right.
Dalian Maritime Bureau-Following the transfer of Manchurian territory from the administration of the Soviet Union to China in the 1950s, this Bureauwas established in 1957 to run all passenger and cargo shipping administered hitherto both by the Shanghai Bureau's Dalian Sub-bureau and otherwise in the Pohai Gulf. The passenger ships were eventually transferred to a new national entity called China Shipping Passenger Liner Co. Ltd. The Dalian passenger ships are listed in the PDF at right.
Steamship Fleets and Companies Operating on the Yangtse & between Shanghai and Ningpo
Jardine, Matheson & Co.commenced dedicated Yangtse operations in 1862. A fleet list, of the river and Ningpo ships only, is in this PDF. For the full Jardines fleet see the "Major Ship Operators" section above.
China Navigation Co. (John Swire and Sons) of London commenced its steamship operations in 1873 on the Yangtse. We have compiled an illustrated list of all CNC ships on Yangtse and Ningpo services which is at the PDF at right. For ship histories for the full CNC fleet we recommend the listing via the Wikiswire website.
China Merchants S.N. Co. , the Chinese state-owned fleet, commenced services on the Yangtse in 1874, continuing as such, as a major player until 1950. The fleet has subsequently continued under different management structures including the Yangtse Maritime Bureau which is the last entry in this section. A detailed illustrated fleet list of the Yangtse and Ningpo service ships from 1873 until 1950 may be found in the PDF at right. See the "Major Ship Operators" section above for the full CMSNC lists.
Hoong On S.N. Co., a significant operator on the Yangtse, could trace its origins to the 1880s. It eventually came under the strong influence of Yu Ya-ching, and lasted until the 1950s. A short history and illustrated fleet list may be found in the PDF at right.
Shanghai Tug & Lighter Co. Ltd was a development of theShanghai Tug Boat Co. Ltdfounded in 1887. It was the most prominent tug and lighter company in the Shanghai, Whangpoo and Woosung port areas up until World War II. A brief history and illustrated fleet list and a list of other major Shanghai tugs and tenders may be found in the PDF file to the right.
The Shanghai Licensed Pilots Associationwas formed in 1899 and has been followed by a number of successors to the present day. A short history and an illustrated fleet list of the large Shanghai pilot ships to the present day may be found in the PDF at right.
Nisshin Kisen K.K.-Several Japanese companies joined to form Nisshin which became the largest company on the Yangtse prewar. A brief history and illustrated fleet list is at the next PDF at right.
Yu Ya-ching (Yu Xia-qing)'s five companies became major players in Ningpo and Yangtse passenger shipping before World War II. An updated illustrated list of the Yangtse and Ningpo ships of these companies, including those of Hoong On S.N. Co. controlled by Yu Ya-ching from 1918, is in the PDF at right. A full illustrated list of Yu Ya-ching's ships is posted in the 'Major Ship Operators' section above.
Asiatic Petroleum Co. (North China) developed a fleet mainly for operating on the Yangtse and Upper Yangtse. An illustrated fleet list may be found at the next PDF.
Standard Oil Co. also developed a fleet mainly for operating on the Yangtse and Upper Yangtse. An illustrated fleet list may be found at the next PDF.
"Little Yangtze and Near Coast"-Before the Pacific War many smaller companies operated in the Yangtse river delta, to Yangtse ports, northwards to ports such as Yichen and Haizhou, and southwards such as to the Zhongshan (Chusan) islands, Ningbo and Wenzhou. An indicative illustrated list of many of these companies, with ship histories as far as is known, is in the PDF at right.
"Little Upper River"-From around 1900 the Upper Yangtse from Ichang to Chungking and beyond was opened up to steam shipping, and many companies were formed in ensuing years. It is not possible to provide a comprehensive list, but we have provided an indicativelisting of the ships of many of the companies in this PDF.
Yangtze Rapid S.S. Co. was a significant United States operator on the Upper River 1923-35, an illustrated fleet list of which may be found in the PDF at right.
Mollers Towages Ltdwas a major local salvage and towage company based in Shanghai prewar. Postwar it became Hong Kong Salvage & Towage Ltd. A short history and illustrated fleet list is contained in the PDF at right.
Chang Jiang (Yangtse) Maritime Bureau operated Yangtse the river steamers in the 1960s, taking over the fleets run by China Merchants (CHIANG names) and by the Ming Sung Industrial company (MING names). These were re-organised into one fleet in 1966 with DONG FANG HONG ("The East is Red") names and a unique number. Vessels with pre-revolutionary origins, such as DONG FANG HONG ships numbered up to No.10 are listed with full histories and illustrations, as far as available, in the first PDF at right. Vessels built after 1949, such as DONG FANG HONG ships numbered No.11 and later are listed with illustrations but, without full histories, in the second PDF.
Coastal Steamship Companies Mainly Operating from Shanghai
Trautmann & Co.was a pioneering company operating from Shanghai in the period from 1863. The company was reformulated as the North China Steamer Co. in 1868, but was soon taken over by Jardine, Matheson & Co. The PDF at right contains an illustrated fleet list.
George McBain & Co.operated ships on the Yangtse from 1874 and later developed a case oil trade from Sumatra. A short history by Howard and an illustrated fleet list are in the PDF file at right.
Chung Hsingwas major conzern commencing with coal mining operations and later operating steamships out of Shanghai, including after 1949. A short history and illustrated fleetlist is at right.
Wah Shang Steamship Co., managed by Yeh Chuan-fang, was a shipping company established in Shanghai in 1931. Its story and that of its succesor companies is outlined in the PDF file at right.
Dah Loh Steamship Co.was another sizeable company operating out of Shanghai before and after World War II. An illustrated fleet list is contained in the next PDF.
Shanghai Maritime Bureau HOPING, ZHANDOU, HEPING, QIAN SHAO and ZHE HAI cargo ships-In the early-1950s, coastal ships based in Shanghai were added to the fleet of the state's Shanghai Maritime Bureau, often after passing through private-public partnerships. Priority was given to the repair, reconditioning, and from the late-1950s, construction of cargo ships. For the SMB's early CHUNG HSING series, see the final part of the CHUNG HSING list above. The main Shanghai-based cargo fleet was developed with ships named in the HOPING ('Peace') series which started at HOPING 1. To instill revolutionary fervour at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution all the names were changed from HOPING to ZHANDOU ('Combat'). An illustrated list of these HOPING, ZHANDOU and subsequent series Mao-era cargo ships may be found in the PDF file at right.
Shanghai Maritime Bureau MIN CHU series ships-Gradually a coastal passenger fleet of 20 ships bearing MIN CHU ('Democracy') names was built up for operating to Ningpo. Wenchow, Tientsin, Dalian and a few other northern ports. The ships in this sub-fleet of the Shanghai Maritime Bureau are listed in the illustrated PDF at right.
Other passenger ships of the Shanghai Maritime Bureau, including passenger ships with ZHE HAI and ZHE JIANG names, and the large CHANG and XIN classes are covered in the next PDF at right..
Steamship Companies Operating Hong Kong/Canton/Macao
There are many factors which have played in the development of Hong Kong into what it is today. One of the most significant (and overlooked by many non-Hong Kongers) is the development of its unique and often colourful shipping companies, with their diverse popular shareholdings, Hong Kong and Canton Chinese managements, capable crews from the mainland (on a Hong Kong ship there might be deck crew from Shanghai, engine room ratings from Soochow and catering staff from Canton), and not least, excellent ship maintenance.
Historically, the first area for steamship operations in China was the Pearl River. The above photograph, taken at Canton in 1916, shows three steamships. At centre is the HONAM, built in 1882, of the pioneering Hongkong, Canton & Macao Steamboat Co. Ltd. (HCMSC). At right is the SUI-AN or the SUI-TAI, owned by the same company but originally built for a German-flag operator on the Yangtse. At left is the KWONG SAI or KWONG TUNG, operated by a rival company. These three ships and many others were owned almost entirely by Chinese shareholders in Canton or Hong Kong, but their owners chose to operate them under the British flag. KWONG SAI and KWONG TUNG continued to operate into the 1950s.
A study of HCMSC was undertaken by Howard Dick and first published in H.W. Dick & S.A. Kentwell, Beancaker to Boxboat: Steamship Companies in Chinese Waters (Nautical Association of Australia, Inc., 1988). It has been updated by Howard and illustrations have been added by Stephen.
Hongkong, Canton & Macao Steamboat Co. Ltd-Click on the first PDF for a short history (no illustrations of ships) of the Hongkong, Canton & Macao Steamboat Co. Ltd.The second PDF provides a chronological illustrated fleetlist of the company's vessels such as TAISHAN and HEUNG SHAN.
Other Canton River steam vessels to 1889-The third PDF is a detailed, illustrated list of other 19th century Canton River steam vessels to 1889, such as RIVER BIRD and HANKOW.
Other Canton River steam and motor vessels 1890 to 1992-The fourth PDF is an illustrated list with some details, as far as is known, essentially covering the 20th century period from 1890 until the final sailing by the LO SHAN in 1992.
In this section we have also included a short history and illustrated fleet list of the tugs and other craft of the venerable Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd-in the PDF at right.
Coastal Steamship Companies Companies Operating from South China 轮船公司主要以华南公司运营
Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd-Operating northwards from Hong Kong to Swatow, Amoy and Taiwan was the Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd. (DSSC). The short history and fleet list were prepared by Howard and an early version was first published in 1973. It has been updated by Howard and illustrations have been added by Stephen. Click on the first PDF at right for a short history (no illustrations) of the Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd. The second PDF provides a chronological illustrated fleetlist of the Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd. vessels such as HAI CHING and SEISTAN.
Wo Fat Sing-A number of operators developed the trade out of Hong Kong southwards, often carrying emigrant workers outward and bringing back rice from Indochina. One of these operators, Wo Fat Sing became well known in the Prewar period. A short history and illustrated fleet list of Wo Fat Sing and its precursor Li Shek Pang (from 1933 Wo Fat Sing Ltd.) is in the PDF at right.
Shun Cheong S.N. Cowas another operator in this trade which became well known in the Postwar period. The above photograph by Ian Schiffman is of the CHEONGWIND, one of this company's last two ships, which were withdrawn in 1983, in effect concluding conventional regular steamship services which had lasted ninety years (c.f. the photograph below of HANOI of 1893 and fleet list of Marty and D'Abbadie). A short history of Shun Cheong S.N. Co. written by Howard and a fleet list with a numerous illustrations of the ships is in the PDF at right.
Guangzhou Maritime Bureau-The next PDF contains an illustrated list of the passenger ships of the state-owned Guangzhou Maritime Bureau.
Pioneering Steamships and Companies of Japan, Indochina and the Philippines
Our final section deals with some pioneering steamship companies of the United States, Japan, Indochina and the Philippines which played an important role in the development of steam navigation in China and were often seen in Chinese ports. The Australian and Hong Kong-flag Australian Oriental Line is also included.
List of Steamships Acquired by Japan up to 1870-A primary reason why the the United States forced the opening of Japan to the outside world in 1858 was its strategic location for transpacific steam voyages, especially for coaling. As a reactive and protective measure, the Tokugawa government and the Han (clan) Daimyo strongholds then very actively acquired steamships both old and new. The ships strengthened the Daimyo and helped lead to the Meiji Restoration. The late T.M. Milne researched and published a List of Steamships Acquired by Japan up to 1870, of which many had been in service on the China coast. Mr Milne was a correspondent of both Howard and Stephen, and sought Stephen's assistance in disseminating his work in Japan. While the late Goro Yamataka published some of Milne's work in tabular form, it has tended to be forgotten. The PDF at right therefore revives Milne's studies, with a few additions which are clearly marked, mainly in the form of illustrations.
Pacific Mail S.S. Co.-The first regular steamship service across the Pacific was one commenced from Sydney to Panama in June 1866, but this was soon followed by a service started by the major U.S. operator, Pacific Mail S.S. Co. from San Francisco to Yokohama and Hong Kong in January 1867. To supplement this service, at the same time, Pacific Mail introduced a Branch Line from Yokohama to Nagasaki and Shanghai. An illustrated fleet list of Pacific Mail steamers that served Japan and China (but not other routes) is in the PDF at right.
Mitsubishi Mail S.S. Co.-In Japan a merchant from the Tosa Han, Iwasaki Yataro began to build up Japan's largest fleet of steamships from about 1870, which came to be known as the Mitsubishi Mail S.S. Co., the first company in the now world-famous Mitsubishi conglomerate. Cooperating closely with the Japanese government, in January 1875 Mitsubishi commenced a four-ship service to Shanghai with the aim of closing down the Pacific Mail Branch Service which was, in effect a cross trader, an outside line that was not operated by Chinese or Japanese ships. Mitsubishi soon won this battle and purchased the four Pacific Mail Branch Line ships. The next year P.&O. commenced a two-ship branch line between China and Japan but this effort too was defeated by Mitsubishi. An undergraduate thesis by Stephen in 1972, particularly analysing interactions between the Japanese government and Mitsubishi is in the first PDF at right. A detailed illustrated fleet list of Mitsubishi kindly, checked and updated by the late T.M. Milne, and a bibliography are in the second PDF at right.
Kiodo Unyu K.K.-In the early 1880s a new company, Kiodo Unyu K.K. was formed in Japan to challenge the Mitsubishi monopoly with major shareholdings by Mitsui and the Japanese government. It also ran a four-ship service between Japan and Shanghai. An illustrated fleet list of its steamships is in the PDF at right. The combination of the Milne, Mitsubishi and Kiodo lists covers 80-90% of all major Japanese steamships until the establishment of the Osaka Shosen Kaisha in 1884 and the merger of Mitsubishi and Kiodo into Nippon Yusen Kaisha in 1885, companies which are well recorded. We note that histories of individual Japanese merchant ships and companies from around that time until the present day are recorded at Fumio Nagasawa's website - the third clickable item 船名索引 accesses the alphabetical list.
The above magnificent photgraph of Kiodo Unyu's largest ship, YAMASHIRO MARU, with a sail furled on a forward yard, was taken in Sydney Harbour by the photographer Alfred William Buchanan Dufty (1858–1924). The Royal Navy ensign on the foremast signifies that the vessel is headed for a British port, and possibly that the British master is qualified as a Royal Navy officer. The houseflag on the mainmast is that of Nippon Yusen Kaisha, formed by the merger, each of two red stripes signifying one of the companies in the merger.
Marty & d'Abbadie- A company based in French Indochina which developed services to China was La Soc. Service Subventionne des Correspondences Fluviales au Tonkin, Haiphong, better known as Marty & d'Abbadie. The above image is of the HANOI, built in Sunderland for that owner in 1893. The image is taken from a postcard found in the Northeast of the United States about 50 years ago by the late Charles Schell, father of maritime photographer Bill (W. Schell). It notates a voyage taken from Haiphong to Hong Kong in 1907. An illustrated fleet list is in the PDF at right.
China & Manila S.S. Co. Ltd.was a US-flag concern established in 1883. It was managed by a descendant of Russell & Co. of Shanghai Steam Nav. Co. fame, but its ships were sold in 1915. A time line and illustrated fleet list are contained in the PDF file at right.
The Compania Maritima, formed through merger in the Philippines in the late-1890s, became that country's best known steamship company. Its vessels were initially concentrated on domestic routes, but also visited Chinese ports. The next PDF is an illustrated fleetlist of that company's post-1945 vessels.
Madrigal-Another major Philippine steamship company was run by the Madrigal family. An illustrated fleetlist of that company's post-1945 vessels is attached at right.
The Australian Oriental Line, a rather smaller concern, ran a passenger and cargo service from Australia to Chinese and Japanese ports from 1912 until 1961. The two photographs below show one of the last two ships, CHANGTE arriving in a wintry Hobart, Tasmania in July 1960. A full fleet list of AOL ships may be found in the PDF at right.
The above two photographs show CHANGTE of the Australian Oriental Line arriving in Hobart on 3 July 1960. CHANGTE and her sister TAIPING were built by the Hong Kong & Whampoa shipyard in Hong Kong and were based on a China coaster design, with additional cabin and refrigerated cargo capacity. The photographs were taken by Lindsay Rex, who has kindly provided them to oldchinaships.com.