National Maritime Board

Scope and Content

The NMB archive consists of two main series: minute books, of both the separate panels and the full Board, 1920-1974, and their related transcripts, 1919-1921; and the Board's Yearbooks, giving a summary of agreements, 1938-1953 and 1960-1964.

Administrative / Biographical History

The National Maritime Board (NMB) was created in 1917, in response to war-time fears about the effect industrial action might have upon Britain's merchant fleet. This voluntary body included representatives of both the shipowners and seamen, and was seen primarily as a temporary measure under strict governmental control. However, after the war, both sides recognised the need for something more permanent. Following several meetings with the Ministry of Shipping, both the Shipping Federation and the Seafarers' Joint Council submitted proposals for this organisation, and complete agreement between the two sides was reached in May 1919.

The decision was taken to continue calling the organisation the National Maritime Board, but in other respects this new body was quite different. The government played no part in its running, laying the entire responsibility both for making and carrying out agreements upon the shoulders of the shipowners' and seafarers' organisations themselves. The Board itself was divided into five separate panels, representing the shipmasters, navigating officers, engineers, sailors and firemen. A sixth panel, for radio officers, was introduced in 1941. Each had equal representation of owners and employees, with the six panels together creating the full Board. The records of the Board currently held by the Records Centre end in 1985 - some are included in the collections relating to the National Union of Seamen (MSS.175 and MSS.175A) - and it is not known how the organisation continued to operate after this time.

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 part of the larger British Shipping Federation deposit. Minute books dating from 1975-1981 are still held by the Chamber.