Shipping Conference Correspondence

Scope and Content

ANZESC correspondence and minutes, covering shipping and trade in the East

Administrative / Biographical History

The innovation of steam propulsion enabled carriers for the first time to give their shippers guaranteed dates of delivery which had been impossible when only sailing vessels were employed. The advent of steam, however, brought with it bitter competition and saw carriers driven out of business following a period of unprecedentely low rates.

It became patently evident that a commercial solution was urgently needed to quell the inherent instability of the liner trades, in the interest of both the carriers and their customers. The breakthrough came to be known as the Conference system. Thus the Calcutta Conference [Kolkata] was formed in 1875 and is often cited as being the first, although in fact the North Atlantic Conference was formed prior to this in 1868, and there is evidence of earlier Conference-type arrangements particularly in short sea routes.

A major reason behind the formation of Conferences was the regulation of competition between carriers, through the setting of mutually agreed freight rates and conditions of service.

Following the introduction in 1969 of purpose built, cellular container ships on the Europe to Australia Trade, enormous investment was required to change trades from the traditional conventional methods to the large investment required with containerisation which was beyond the scope of any individual carrier. By pooling the interests of individual lines there was the possibility of operating on a scale much larger than what was possible with conventional shipping and this led to the formation of groups of Lines in consortia.

An early one was Overseas Container Lines which comprised the Peninsula and Oriental Steamship Navigation (P&O), Furness Withy, Ocean Transport and British and Commonwealth and another UK consortium called Associated Container Transportation (ACT) comprising Blue Star, Ellermans, Port Line, Harrisons and Ben Line. Early in the 1970’s there was an increase in the formation of consortia comprising different nationalities and this has continued on to this day.


Records are arranged in two series, Letters and Minutes, and are arranged chronologically within each series

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