The Shipping Federation

Scope and Content

The archive contains several series of minutes, 1890-1982; financial records and ledgers, 1890-1922; the letters of Thomas Carey, a National Amalgamated Sailors' and Firemen's Union (NSFU) official and later an employee of the Federation, 1891-1913, and of Michael Brett, General Manager of the Federation, 1906-1914, along with a series of miscellaneous correspondence, 1906-1956; a series of government and miscellaneous pamphlets, 1912-1946; miscellaneous records, 1905-1971, including articles of association, drawings and illustrations, identity cards, material relating to the Federation's 1950 Diamond Jubilee Dinner, legal records, membership papers, and posters; a volume of agreements, 1936-1939; press cuttings, 1914-1934, regarding the First World War, the General Strike and miscellaneous topics; and a series of photographs, 1939-1950, of Federation staff members, bomb damage to the Federation's headquarters in World War II, and of miscellaneous subjects.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Shipping Federation was founded in 1890, in order to promote the interests of shipowners. Its primary purpose was as 'a fighting machine' to counter the increasing power of the seamen's unions, and in particular J. Havelock Wilson's recently formed National Amalgamated Sailors' and Firemen's Union. As a strong advocate of free labour, the Federation was ruthless in its breaking of strikes, and these activities resulted in the liquidation of the NASFU in 1894. However, in the wake of the 1911 sailors' and dock-workers' strike, the Federation began to recognise the place of the unions, and to work more closely with them. This was a process accelerated by the outbreak of war, during which period the Federation also over-saw the founding of the National Maritime Board (see MSS.367/NMB). The Federation also became more involved in the training of seamen, and in 1918 the Gravesend Sea School was founded, shortly followed by others in Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Southampton.

By 1930, the Federation was made up of 23 districts, each of which was consulted on an important issues. The central policy maker was the Executive Council, which met in London twice a year and was made up of 140 members. In between council meetings, the work of the Federation was carried out by its committees, the main one of these being the General Purposes committee, presided over by the Council chairman. The Federation also worked closely with other shipping organisations, including the Employers' Association of the Port of Liverpool, with which it eventually merged in 1967 to become the British Shipping Federation. The Chamber of Shipping also shared many of the Federation's members, and in 1975 these two bodies joined to create the General Council of British Shipping. In 1991, there was a third change of name, and the organisation was re-named the Chamber of Shipping. Records relating to the Federation from 1975 onwards can be found in the Chamber of Shipping archive (see MSS.367/COS).

Reference: L.H. Powell The Shipping Federation: A History of the First Sixty Years, 1890-1950 London 1950

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

Other Finding Aids

Custodial History

The archive was deposited by the Chamber of Shipping in December 1995, as one part of the larger British Shipping Federation collection.

Related Material

See also: Chamber of Shipping (MSS.367/COS)