Newcastle upon Tyne Blog blog

Longest running shipowner in UK to close

Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd, Britain’s oldest shipping company, has been liquidated due to the global economic crisis.

The Newcastle based company was founded by brothers Ralph and Robert Clarke in 1730 at a time when the Tyne was renowned around the world for its coal trade. The brothers started the business when they bought an interest in a 300-tonne sailing vessel.

Over the years the company expanded from working solely in the shipowning and coal factoring industry to managing a fleet of bulk carriers and smaller vessels. Their fleet carried bulk and project cargoes within northern Europe, the Mediterranean including the Black Sea, the Atlantic islands, Scandinavia and the Baltic.

The company has now sadly ceased trading and sold its last vessel in July.

A company spokesman said:  “While previous economic downturns have been weathered, the current market is one of the worst experienced for many years with no upturn forecast for at least 12 to 18 months.”

Allan Kelly, the company’s liquidator from Newcastle accountants Tait Walker, said that the recession had a severe impact on the shipping market.

Stephenson Clarke Shipping were at their most successful in the mid-1990s when they owned 12 vessels, with £35m annual turnover. Despite successful years between 2004 and 2008, the company has struggled over the past few years and they have gradually sold off their vessels.

“Vessel rates have been incredibly depressed,” said Mr Kelly. “It gets to a point where a business model is unviable.”

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