The UK to New Zealand trade was one of the last routes to convert from sail to steam. Two British companies provided most of the ships. These were Shaw, Savill & Co. (founded in London in 1858 by Robert Shaw and Walter Savill) and Albion Co. (founded in Glasgow in 1864 by Patrick Henderson). As the two firms operated from different British ports they developed a friendly rivalry. Both companies mainly acted as brokers, advertising for passengers and cargoes for New Zealand and utilizing chartered ships.
The creation of the New Zealand Shipping Co. in 1873 provided the two British companies with fierce competition. They decided to merge in 1883 to form Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd. with a combined fleet of 31 sailing ships. The company joined the Australia trade in 1905 when it acquired the Aberdeen Line, and in 1934 purchased White Star interests in the Australia Line.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd. owned 26 ships. It lost 12 ships to enemy action. After the War the company embarked upon a major rebuilding and expansion program that resulted in the fleet reaching a peak of 33 ships in 1968.
Containerization and airline competition in the 1970s led to a downturn in the company's fortunes. In 1986 the last ship was sold and Shaw, Savill & Albion was taken over by Hamburg Sud.
by Mark Matlach